Choosing a landscape lighting company can be confusing. There are so many companies to pick from. How do you know which one will do the best job for your home or commercial building? Getting referrals from friends and family is always a good idea. But if you don’t know anyone who has installed landscape lighting on their property, what do you do then? Many people seek out review sites. These companies can help you make a decision, but you have to be careful because not everything is what it seems.
Distinguishing between Licensed and Unlicensed Contractors
Angie’s List is a membership site that provides local reviews on service companies. I have a lot of respect for what they are trying to do. I believe they try hard to get high quality contractors on board. However, they end up collecting contractors, some good, and some not so good. You cannot go by references alone as many of the references are done by friends of friends for show, to some degree. I know that I have a lot of high-end clients that do not want their names published anywhere. They want their privacy. So now, when a homeowner calls into Angie’s for a recommendation, they get a list of contractors in the area that may be good. The problem is that Angie’s List does not have any way to check for proper licensing. That one issue can get folks into a lot of trouble. The homeowner can get fined for not using a licensed contractor and not reporting them. With low voltage lighting, the contractor is absolutely required to hold an ES license. So if he is recommended and they do the work, the work is done by an unqualified contractor. Believe me, we have seen everything in terms of damage done, trees burned to the ground, and very poor installations, in general. As a homeowner, you can tell if the contractor has a license, as their number will be printed on their business card. If a landscape lighting contractor does have the license and does not have the number printed, they can get fined. That fine is $1,000.00. Believe me, you will print your number if you have one. I do believe that Angie’s List tries hard to provide good service to the homeowner. They just do not have the time to check out licensing for all across the United States. That is a large order for them.
The Better Business Bureau is completely different. If they were a marketing organization, then they are doing ok. I used to be in the BBB, and left. The reason that I left is that they do not check licensing for low voltage contractors. It is a state law in Florida to carry that license, and they do not care that a contractor they recommend has that license. They place the homeowner in jeopardy of being fined when they recommend an unlicensed contractor. From a good contractor’s point of view, it appears that all they really care about is the $350 fee per year to join. My view, and my view only, is that they are in the public trust. I just do not understand why they justify recommending unlicensed contractors.
Business referral groups are a great idea. Some will check backgrounds and some will not. The ones that do not are no better than the above mentioned. Most referral groups have companies join that are new and untried. These groups are supposedly bonded together with an oath to recommend each other. As in all groups, there are good ones and bad ones.
Elegant Custom Images has been around a very long time across central Florida. We know who the good contractors are and who are not. When we recommend someone, it is not about money changing hands at all. In fact, we do not care about that. What we care about is the following:
1. Is the contractor legal?
2. From a personality point of view, will that contractor get along well with our customer?
3. Can he do the job at hand, from a personal knowledge of knowing their work?
4. Do they clean up after they are through or do they make a mess and leave that to the homeowner?
5. Are they honest and will they make money on a project but not gouge our customers?
Before you hire a landscape lighting company, do your homework. Check to make sure you’re dealing with a licensed contractor by visiting the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations and SunBiz.org.
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