Five topics in one (trees, contractors, worker's comp, tipping, and ditching IT) (Public Board)

by IT guy, Sunday, April 30, 2023, 18:47 (297 days ago)

Ok so this actually involves FIVE separate topics but I'll combine them anyway LOL.

For the past 5-6 years, with the exception of last year, seems that I've had trouble with trees dying and/or falling. Prior to that, very little trouble. Must be climate change, right? :) j/k It does seem like there have been more storms and rain in recent years. I like trees but they can be a pain in the ass.

It's been posted here before about how difficult it is to find a good contractor in general (especially trees). They either don't answer, don't show up, or don't follow three. After lots of back and worth, was able to get a few estimates. That's one job I prefer to let someone else handle rather than do it myself, unless the tree is already on the ground. I had two trees fall this year during a storm and one tree ended up hanging on another tree.

The guy I used last time did a good job but no longer carries worker's comp insurance. First question.....when someone does work on your property, do you ensure that they have worker's comp in addition to liability insurance? I called my homeowners and they said they would not cover if something were to happen and the company did not carry worker's comp. Out of four estimates I received, three contractors did NOT carry worker's comp. That was a bit surprising even though they were small time operations. I did find a guy that carried worker's comp and his estimate was lower than the others.

When I went to pay the bill, he had some online payment thing setup. There was an option to select a "tip" (10%, 15%, 20%, other). I have never heard of tipping a contractor before. Since they were quite a bit lower than the other estimates, I did give them 10% since they were able to fit me in ahead of schedule. It's a bit weird to be tipping contractors though IMO. Never heard of that before. Have any of you heard of this or done this?

The guy who cut my tree down is a former IT guy with a degree in the field who did tech support, project management, etc for a big company. He burned out on IT and opened his own arborist/tree cutting company. Seemed to enjoy being outside and moving around.

Just a few things I thought I'd throw out there. The most interesting part is the career change from IT to arborist. Sometimes I think about switching to some type of blue collar trade like HVAC but am probably too old to make that move.

Five topics in one (trees, contractors, worker's comp, tipping, and ditching IT)

by JoFrance, Sunday, April 30, 2023, 19:21 (297 days ago) @ IT guy

I've lived in my house for 30 years and never remember the trees falling down like they have over the past few years. Its very scary, but your best bet is to always use a tree guy with their own insurance. I never checked whether they had worker's comp and why would that ever be my responsiblity? I'm not their employer, the company I hired is.

Tipping? I would never hire a company that asked for that when it comes to tree work. They have a lot of nerve because they charge so much money to begin with.

Five topics in one (trees, contractors, worker's comp, tipping, and ditching IT)

by IT guy, Sunday, April 30, 2023, 20:05 (297 days ago) @ JoFrance

I've lived in my house for 30 years and never remember the trees falling down like they have over the past few years.

Yeah it's crazy. Some of it was due to weather and some due to disease.

Its very scary, but your best bet is to always use a tree guy with their own insurance. I never checked whether they had worker's comp and why would that ever be my responsiblity? I'm not their employer, the company I hired is.

That's what I thought but was browsing websites like this one:

https://certapro.com/boston-south-shore/community/how-to-make-sure-all-contractors-that-work-on-your-home-are-properly-insured-and-why-it-matters/

"Worker’s Compensation insurance protects the company’s workers who are working on your property.

If a worker is injured, their medical costs are covered by Worker’s Compensation. If a company does not carry Worker’s Compensation, you as the homeowner are likely liable for the injuries to the workers."

Tipping? I would never hire a company that asked for that when it comes to tree work. They have a lot of nerve because they charge so much money to begin with.

Yeah. They did not ask for it until the end of the process where you go to their website to pay.

Only reason I tipped was because they were quite a bit lower than the other estimates and they were able to fit me in that day instead of waiting 2 months. Looking back, probably should not have tipped at all even though they did a good job. If they wanted more money, it should have been in the quote.

The culture of tipping in the US is getting out of control.

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Five topics in one (trees, contractors, worker's comp, tipping, and ditching IT)

by ,ndo, Certifiable!, Monday, May 01, 2023, 04:00 (297 days ago) @ JoFrance

I've lived in my house for 30 years and never remember the trees falling down like they have over the past few years.

Guy and Jo, is this because you've lived with the trees for decades and it is their time to come down or do you think circumstances have changed and tress are coming down "unnaturally"?

Five topics in one (trees, contractors, worker's comp, tipping, and ditching IT)

by JoFrance, Monday, May 01, 2023, 18:49 (296 days ago) @ ,ndo

In my case, my Ash trees are being weakened and killed by the Emerald Ash Borer. I really don't know what to do about it except to keep taking down Ash trees or any other trees that can fall on my house or one of my neighbor's houses. It has gotten so bad where I live that our town took down a lot of the trees that are close to the road up and down my street (free of charge).

We've been having a lot of wind storms over the past four or five years. More than I remember in all the years I've lived here. Any tree can come down during these storms because they have sustained winds of 30-40mph with higher gusts. They can go on for days sometimes. Its scary because my property is mostly wooded so I never know which tree will fall.

Five topics in one (trees, contractors, worker's comp, tipping, and ditching IT)

by IT guy, Monday, May 01, 2023, 21:27 (296 days ago) @ JoFrance

Same here

I lost a few ash trees due to that disease.

Also wind storms along with the ground becoming too saturated.

Lost a few others due to unknown reasons, likely disease. I have some spruces that are on their last legs.

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The so called "expert" here... :)

by Cornpop Sutton ⌂, A bad bad dude who makes good shine., Monday, May 01, 2023, 03:44 (297 days ago) @ IT guy
edited by Cornpop Sutton, Monday, May 01, 2023, 03:53

It's been posted here before about how difficult it is to find a good contractor in general (especially trees).

I'm thinking that the best practice to use when vetting any contractor is an absolute zero-tolerance policy. (This is assuming that the supply/demand issue is not totally against you.)

In summary: if a contractor is irritating, unresponsive, ignores your concerns, or acts stupid in any way, fuck 'em --- don't use them.

In other words:

If they don't respect your time - don't return calls or emails or texts, act stupid, forget the basic project you requested after you spoke with them, etc - block them.

If they insult you in any way for any reason - block them.

If they aren't responsive after giving reasonable leeway - block them.

If their bid is stupid expensive or their terms are stupid (want far more than 10% down to bind a contract, for instance) - get rid of them.

Those left are the ones you can deal with.

The guy I used last time did a good job but no longer carries worker's comp insurance. First question.....when someone does work on your property, do you ensure that they have worker's comp in addition to liability insurance?

YES

Liability insurance pays if they damage your premises or someone else's property (in tort law terms they are responsible regardless whether they take out insurance but most contractors can't afford to pay even a minor property claim.)

Workmen's comp is a standardized plan that pays for listed injuries in a specific way. JoFrance is not on the mark here - My understanding has ALWAYS been that if you hire someone to work on your property, YOU are responsible for their injuries. Yeah, you want to insist they carry workmen's comp. It's expensive for tree services (actually that is supposedly the most injury prone occupation.)

I called my homeowners and they said they would not cover if something were to happen and the company did not carry worker's comp.

Yeah, what I said is probably why they said that.

Out of four estimates I received, three contractors did NOT carry worker's comp. That was a bit surprising even though they were small time operations. I did find a guy that carried worker's comp and his estimate was lower than the others.

I've found loose correlation between professionalism and size of business.

When I went to pay the bill, he had some online payment thing setup. There was an option to select a "tip" (10%, 15%, 20%, other). I have never heard of tipping a contractor before. Since they were quite a bit lower than the other estimates, I did give them 10% since they were able to fit me in ahead of schedule. It's a bit weird to be tipping contractors though IMO. Never heard of that before. Have any of you heard of this or done this?

You tipped AFTER work was completed, right?

I'm seeing suggested tips popping up on carry out food receipts and even product type stores where I never saw them before.

My reaction is that it's fine and I would have done the same as you and yes, that is a new pattern.

Just a few things I thought I'd throw out there. The most interesting part is the career change from IT to arborist. Sometimes I think about switching to some type of blue collar trade like HVAC but am probably too old to make that move.

I should have seen the handwriting on the wall in ... 1991. I should have pursued a new degree then.

The so called "expert" here... :)

by JoFrance, Monday, May 01, 2023, 17:38 (296 days ago) @ Cornpop Sutton
edited by JoFrance, Monday, May 01, 2023, 18:50

Every state has very different worker's comp laws. This site lists all state laws on worker's comp.

https://www.nfib.com/content/legal-compliance/legal/workers-compensation-laws-state-by-state-comparison-57181/

Where I live in NJ, businesses with employees have to carry it or face severe penalties. Its optional for a sole proprietor which would definitely not be a tree service. I'm sure they could still sue you if you somehow endangered them, but more likely they would sue their employer.

The so called "expert" here... :)

by IT guy, Monday, May 01, 2023, 21:37 (296 days ago) @ Cornpop Sutton

I totally agree with you on contractors and dealt with quite a bit of flakiness. I made an appointment with one guy who said he would show up on Sunday morning. He called me THURSDAY when he was on his way. He just gave me a verbal quote, didn't have insurance info with him (he said his company was "in town next to the fire station") and came across as a hillbilly with a small time operation.

It's a contractor's market and they know it.

Good description on liability vs. worker's comp. I don't think most people think to ask about liability let alone worker's comp. I make sure to get a COI before they do any work.

Yeah, you want to insist they carry workmen's comp. It's expensive for tree services (actually that is supposedly the most injury prone occupation.)

I'm thinking that is why my last tree guy dropped it. It's a shame because he did a good job last time but not only was he missing WC but his estimate was more than 50% higher than the lowest estimate.

You tipped AFTER work was completed, right?

Correct. He routed me to a website to pay my bill once he was back in his office.

I'm seeing suggested tips popping up on carry out food receipts and even product type stores where I never saw them before.

Yeah. I'm wondering if our society is getting a bit carried away with tips. Where does one draw the line?

My reaction is that it's fine and I would have done the same as you and yes, that is a new pattern.

After tipping, I thought that perhaps I was cheaping out. Not only was his estimate the lowest but tipping a waitress only 10% is not a good tip. Different situation here and hopefully they don't hold it against me if I need them again. If so, too bad. He should have quoted me a higher price if he wanted more money.

I should have seen the handwriting on the wall in ... 1991. I should have pursued a new degree then.

You were in your 30s then? That seems to be a good time for a career change. Beyond that and it's more of an uphill battle.

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