What To Look For

Liability insurance

As a disclaimer, I am not an insurance person. Anything that I mention about insurance is just what I believe to be true to the best of my understanding. But I recommend that you call a professional insurance broker for any insurance questions that you may have. If you contact me I can recommend the best company that I found and I was very happy with over many years.


Of course it almost goes without saying that it is very important to make sure that whoever you hire has liability insurance. Liability insurance will protect you the home owner against any damage to property or persons as a result of doing the tree job. It does not cover the workers on the job but it covers anyone else that might get hurt on the job site. For example a person walking or driving by that got struck by a falling object from that job. Or a person could trip and get hurt from debris associated with the job. Or God forbid a tree or a large chunk could fall into the house and hurt or kill someone. It does happen! It’s a good thing for example that no one was in this parked car at the time when the tree hit it.


It is very important to make sure that the company you hire is Bonded. This type of bond is in the event that you paid money to the tree service but they didn’t do or complete the work as agreed. In that case you could file a claim against the bonded tree service to the bonding company. But of course if the company is not bonded then you are on your own.

In Washington State it is a law That all tree service contractors are Bonded.

Never pay for tree service work until the job is complete to your satisfaction.

My wife told me that I shouldn’t even write this in this article because it may not give a professional image. Or that people already know this stuff. But after being in this industry all my life it’s important to put it in because it’s the truth. All the people that got ripped of or who had a bad experience with their tree people told me that they would never do that again. Or that they wish they hadn’t done it. Or they say “I knew better but I trusted him anyway”. So I’m writing this for the people that may not be aware of what goes on regarding this.  And if by me bringing this subject up and If you have these things on your mind as you are choosing who to hire you can avoid a lot of headaches.

Don’t get ripped off  by a tree service

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard customers tell me how they got ripped off from a “tree guy”. It always goes something like this. “The nice man told me that he needed half the money (or some other percentage) down first so that they can put them on the schedule.” “I gave him the money and I never saw him again”. DON’T DO IT !! Or that things have been a little slow and I need money to get my saw out of the saw shop before I can start the job. DON’T DO IT !! “But he was such a nice man and…..”:) DON’T DO IT!! If they are a legitimate business doing tree work, they have money. Or at least they should have money Sometimes that person asking for money up front is a con artist or sometimes it’s a person that is just not managing his life well enough to such a degree that he has no money. I have known many tree climbers who go straight to the bar every night after work and stay until closing time, or until their money is gone. Then they get up early the next day and start climbing trees.  I have known climbers that are into drugs,   ( I’m sorry to say A LOT OF PEOPLE). So sometimes it’s a case where the person didn’t  intend to rip you off. But the end result was the same weather he intended to or not. You ended up not having your money that you paid him in advance with, and neither does he, HE SPENT IT ALREADY. Normally they are offering you a “very special deal” and you need to decide now so they can “start right away”.

Don’t get in a hurry to do your tree job. Take your time schedule around your convenience. And feel good about the choice that you made in terms of the company that you hired.


It’s a Washington state law that tree service contractors are licensed  with the State. So it is important to know that the contractor that you hire is licensed. There are many people that do Tree Work “on the side” for a little extra spending money. But If they do not have a license then they also do not have a bond and they also  do not have labor and industries either. So if anything goes wrong you as the homeowner are considered the contractor on the job and it could end up costing you many many more times  the amount the job was worth by a licensed and bonded tree company.

Labor & Industries

It is very important when choosing a tree contractor to make sure that they have L n I. This is also a law in the state of Washington for tree contractors to carry L n I on each employee on the job. This type of insurance protects the worker in the event that he or she gets hurt while performing their duties on the job at work. The cost of this insurance is based on the risk category of the work being performed. Each company starts out with what is called a base price. If the company has no claims over time their base price can go down. If they have claims within a given time frame their rate will go up. At the time of this writing the base price for climbing trees is $5.76, (rounded to the nearest penny), per hour and the base price for falling trees is $16.20 per hour. That is calculated for each hour for each person on the job.

What if the tree service did not have L N I and a worker got hurt or killed?

If the person that contracted with you did not have L n I and a worker got hurt or killed, not only would the contractor be in big trouble but the home owner would be too. If a person got hurt and had to go to the hospital and let’s say that the bill was $100,000. Attorneys  are going to get involved and they are going to go after everyone in order to collect. Plus what would happen if the person lost a limb or became paralyzed etc.? Now there’s not only the cost of the medical bills but also the cost of loss of wages, diminished employment opportunities, pain and suffering… you get the idea.

Make sure that their license, bond, liability insurance and Labor & Industries insurance is current.

Sometimes what can happen is that a tree company can buy their liability insurance and make payments on it. But they may not be current. What I recommend is to ask for the phone number of their insurance broker and call them yourself to verify. You could ask the tree company to show a copy of their insurance but you still will not know if they are up to date on their payments.

Then check with the WA State Department of  Labor & Industries to find out if they are current.


If you are thinking about having some tree work done then you can ask people that you know if they know of anyone. Sometimes you can not only find out who to hire you can also find out who not to hire.

When I had Ken’s Tree Service I was always booked out three or four months in advance and at that time I was not advertising. I didn’t even have a website. It was all from repeat customers and referrals from word of mouth.

If you are looking online to find a tree service, make sure that the owner of the website actually does the work themselves and that they are not just a lead generation business.

I see a lot of websites now days advertising that they have a great pool of tree pro’s to do your work. Or the website might say” cheapest tree removal”  or “best tree service” etc.  It may say” Top 10 tree services in your are” Or “tree service near me” ” enter your zip code”But many times the people creating these websites have never done a tree job in their lives. They wouldn’t know the first thing about it. The way that they make their money is that they generate the lead, you are the lead. Then they sell that lead to whatever company will buy it. As a tree company, I never needed to buy a lead. If the tree service is doing a good job and making people happy they should have lots of work. If a company needs to buy leads, I would wonder why they can’t get their own.

When the tree service comes out to look at your job ask the right questions to test their knowledge.

If you are getting a quote for tree trimming/tree pruning you want to be sure and ask some basic questions to test their knowledge. When you ask, don’t ask in such a way that you are” testing them” or “doubting them”. Just ask casually “what do you think about cutting back to proper laterals”? Ask them  “is it important to cut the limb flush with the tree or does that really matter”?

Of course it does matter to the health of the tree, the cut needs to be taken back to a proper lateral or flush to the tree, or back to what they call the color.

You knowing this information will help to  evaluate if the tree guy knows the correct way to cut the limbs. A proper lateral is a lateral at least one third the size of that witch you are cutting off. I see tree trimming jobs all the time that has been done by tree companies that don’t know what they are doing or they don’t care enough to do it right.

If you are getting a bid to remove a tree  ask them how they go about doing it without hurting your property. See if they are going to use lowering ropes or not to lower the limbs. Just in asking a few casual questions you can tell if they are the right person for the job.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. I am always happy to help.

Ken Hawley (360) 500-3638