Homeowners Associations are tasked with enforcing neighborhood deed restrictions, protecting property values and maintaining the beauty of the community for residents. In order to help maintain the beauty and health of grass, trees and landscape gardens in community entrances and shared common areas, HOAs hire tree and landscape maintenance crews on a contract basis for their services. Unfortunately, many of the tree and landscape crews hired to maintain Houston area communities actually put HOA groups at risk because of their substandard work, unsafe practices, and lack of proper liability and insurance coverage. If you live in a subdivision or community where a landscape or tree care crew regularly maintains your neighborhood's shared spaces or entryways, then it is important to know the warnings signs that could indicate your HOA and community is at risk.
First, HOAs take a big risk when they hire amateur or untrained tree workers and landscape crews to perform contract maintenance for common grass areas, plants and trees because of their lack of safety training and personal safety equipment. In the photo above, the amateur tree worker is not wearing any personal protective gear such as safety goggles, a hardhat, or proper attire. He is also operating trimming equipment in an unsafe way, with a high risk of personal injury or damage to nearby vehicles as cut branches fall. The HOA and residents are both at risk when work is performed without using industry-required safety guidelines because injuries or accidents could result in lawsuits or negative publicity about a community. Also, tree care and landscape crews that have little to no safety practices in place can cause injury to others or property damage because of falling debris or unsecured equipment. Unsafe landscapers can also jeopardize HOAs through the unlicensed application of dangerous herbicides or fertilizers, which can runoff into community waterways or cause damage to nearby trees, plants and grass.
Although many tree care and landscape workers might claim to be insured and bonded, in reality many have little to no liability coverage, and are not bonded at all. Quality insurance coverage means the community is protected in the event of an accident, damage or injury. Bonding ensures that the project is completed on time and correctly. HOAs that hire landscape and tree care contractors without full insurance coverage or bonding put the entire community at risk of devastating insurance claims or lawsuits that could bankrupt the community. In addition, a lack of bonding means HOAs and communities might end up paying for services that do not get completed or are done incorrectly. A reputable and professional tree care or landscape service contractor should be fully insured with Liability Coverage, Workers Compensation and Auto and Equipment Insurance, and be Bonded to ensure the community's maintenance is completed to satisfaction.
Finally, HOAs can put the health and beauty of their community at risk when they choose landscape and tree care contractors that are not professionally trained and certified. Certified Arborists are degreed and trained on how to correctly and safely trim, remove, plant and maintain trees. Amateur tree workers will simply lop off branches in haphazard and reckless ways, endangering the tree health as well as their own personal safety. Landscape Professionals are trained to properly maintain lawns and landscape gardens, and know how to identify and safely remove invasive insects or weeds without damaging nearby plants or trees. Amateur and unskilled landscape workers will mow grass at incorrect levels, or fail to identify potential hazards or threats to property health. HOAs face higher maintenance costs because of the inexperience and poor workmanship of amateur landscape and tree care contractors. These higher costs are ultimately passed down to residents who will quickly become frustrated by their rising HOA maintenance fees.