Part Two – How to choose a tree removal company in Atlanta

Every spring, you might have tree cutters drive through your neighborhood. A guy might jump out and point out dead trees and then offer a good deal to take them down right away. You might wonder how they can afford to do it so cheaply. In Part Two of our article on how to choose a tree removal service, Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE gives us the answer.

Tree removal isn't easy.

In Part One of our article, we discussed the benefits of hiring an arborist. We also talked about how to find a tree service you can trust and the benefits of talking to a tree service before buying your next house. In Part Two, we’ll discuss the importance of making sure the tree removal company has both general liability insurance and workers’ comp insurance.

Why does a tree removal contractor need proper general liability insurance?

Tree contractors that don’t carry insurance can quote a cheaper price to remove your tree than the insured competition. So, Bob warned us that you need to make sure that the tree contractor is properly insured before letting them work on your tree.

There are two kinds of insurance that you should look for. The first is general liability.

Bob told us, “First, you need to see proof of liability insurance. It’s very easy for a tree to fall the wrong way and hit your car or house, or for a branch to crash through your window or ceiling. But many tree guys don’t carry insurance. Remember, your home insurance policy and umbrella policy will NOT cover you for damages incurred from an uninsured tree cutter you hired.”

Make sure that your tree removal company is properly insured.

Bob went on to talk about his experience. “I would guess that less than 30% of the prospects I give tree removal estimates ask if I’m insured,” he said. “Even worse, only about 10% of those actually check up on it to see if it’s valid. That means that about only 3% of homeowners are checking if tree cutting services are insured or not.”

But is checking if they have insurance enough?

Bob told us, “There are different quality standards of insurance carriers. There are A, B and C carriers. The A carriers are the healthiest insurance companies. If you’re hiring a contractor, then you need to check out the quality of the insurance they have. A C-rated insurance carrier will have cheaper tree-cutting insurance. An A-rated carrier is well capitalized and will be able to pay on big claims. Don’t be a statistic. First, ask for proof of insurance. Then call the insurance company to prove it to yourself.”

Why does the homeowner need to make sure that the company has workers’ compensation coverage?

Bob had an interesting take on this question. By Georgia law, a company isn’t required to have workers’ comp insurance if they have less than three employees. This means that many of the small tree cutting services in Atlanta may not have workers’ comp.

Should you be concerned? If it’s not required by law and all…

Does your tree removal company have workers' comp insurance?

Okay, let’s paint a scenario.

You hire a tree guy with the lowest price. They are lower in part because they may not have workers’ comp insurance. You feel good because you got a good deal on cutting your tree down. However, while taking down the tree, there’s a terrible accident. The tree cutter’s assistant is killed.

Here’s what happens next.

“The injured party or the family of the deceased may hire a lawyer, and they go after the employer,” Bob said. Unfortunately, the tree service in our example doesn’t have workers’ comp. Who will pay for the lost wages and medical bills of the deceased assistant, plus pain and suffering? Guess what the lawyer goes after next?  The assets of the employer. But what if the employer doesn’t have enough assets to cover a million-dollar claim?

Bob told us, “The lawyer may look to go after the assets of the homeowner.”

We asked Bob if this has happened here in Georgia. “Yes. In Georgia, a case can be made that the homeowner is the employer of last resort.” He then told me about an incident where the homeowner was sued for lost wages since the contractor’s helper died. The poor woman wound up losing her house.

Couldn’t the homeowner fight that case? “Sadly, lawyers tell me that it may cost anywhere from $25k to $50k to defend yourself in a case like this,” Bob said. As you can imagine, that money alone could bankrupt many people. “I always suggest hiring a company that has workers’ compensation insurance. By the way, this is for any kind of contractor you may hire. Please don’t limit this to tree cutters only.”

So, the advice here is to select a tree service that has workers’ compensation coverage. By the way, if you’re willing to take your chances to get a cheaper price, keep this in mind that arborists do a very dangerous job and so have a higher fatality rate than most other professions.



We hope you have found this series on selecting the best arborist and tree removal service in Atlanta to be helpful, and again we want to thank Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE. If you have a question for Bob he can be reached at his website. Remember, we at Atlanta Insurance want you to be educated so that you make good financial decisions for yourself and your family.

Need car, home, renters, life, or business insurance? Great! We can help with that. To get a free quote for the type of insurance you’re looking for, all you have to do is fill out our quote form or give us a call today!

Part One – How to choose a tree removal company in Atlanta

Millions of dollars are spent every year in repairing homes that are damaged by trees after storms or heavy rains. Dead or rotting trees are dangerous because they can fall and seriously injure or even kill someone. Georgia’s got a lot of trees, and many Georgians have a dangerous tree in their yard right now.

Not all tree removal companies are the same.

In this two-part article, we interviewed Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE of Atlanta. Bob had some great tips for hiring a tree removal service. He also pointed out some situations in which you should hire a tree removal service that you might not have thought about before.

Today, we’ll tackle the following topics:

  • Why it’s important that the company has arborists
  • Why you should talk to a tree removal company before you buy your next house
  • How you can find a tree removal company you can trust

Bob was in a corporate sales and marketing career for 25 years, but at age 50 he knew he wanted to do something else, so he started a new business. “Looking out the window, I saw all of the trees we have in Atlanta,” he said. “I realized that people will always need help with their trees. I found and bought a small tree company that was for sale. We’ve now been in business for 15 years.”

What are some questions that a homeowner should ask before choosing a tree removal service in Atlanta?

Bob’s first suggestion was to ask them if they have arborists that will cut the tree down.

Back up a second – what’s an arborist? “Theoretically, anyone that cuts down a tree is an arborist,” Bob said. “Certified arborists have three years of experience in the field working with trees. They also take a tough national exam. Very few arborists are actually certified. Learning about trees never ends. So, certified arborists have to take several hours of continuing education each year, just like a CPA does.”

Bob continued, “However, from the viewpoint of an arborist, there is a huge difference between a tree cutter and an arborist. A tree cutter’s first thought is, ‘How can I cut this tree down?’ On the other hand, an arborist’s first question is, ‘How can I save this tree?’”

Bob said, “Two or three times a week our team will give an estimate to cut a tree down and will ask the question, ‘Would you like to save the tree?’ The client stops and says, ‘What do you mean? Do you mean I can save it? I have had two quotes already and no one else told me I could save the tree.’ We then go ahead and tell the client that for only $250 we can treat the tree and the odds are very good that we can save it.”

Ask if your tree removal company can save the tree.

So, be sure that the tree cutters that will be working on your yard are arborists. Ask if there’s anything they can do to save the tree if that’s what you’d like to do.

Why should you talk to a tree removal company BEFORE buying your next house?

Bob said the best advice he can give Atlanta home buyers is to look before you buy. “Did you know that home inspectors are not trained to see if trees are healthy?” he asked. “Can you imagine buying a home with many dangerous dead trees on the property? That happened to a young couple that called us. They just bought a house and wanted help with a few dead trees in the yard. How surprised they were when we pointed out fifty dead trees in their yard instead.”

They asked for help, but it was too late. These trees were a hazard and needed to come down. This oversight wound up costing them $12,000. That’s an expensive price to pay for a house that you just purchased.

Tree removal can get expensive!

We asked if it’s still necessary to contact an arborist before buying the property if there’s only one dead tree. Bob answered, “Yes, it’s still a good idea. For example, one time there was a dead tree that cost $15,000 to remove.”

Ooof! We asked Bob how on earth it could cost $15,000 to remove one dead tree.

“The $15,000 tree removal required a huge crane to be brought in to manage it,” Bob explained. “Many of Atlanta’s small postage-stamp-sized yards don’t have a way to safely take a tree down. Now you can see why we suggest calling an arborist before you buy the home.”

By the way, Bob told us that it only costs $75 to have a tree professional look at the home you’re thinking of buying. $75 seems worth it for peace of mind.

The lesson? Find a trustworthy tree professional. Then be sure to include them in your home purchase decision.

How can a homeowner find a tree service they can trust?

“The old saying “buyer beware” applies to all purchases,” Bob said. “This includes hiring a tree-cutting service. First, recognize that you are not a professional . Unfortunately, there are many ways for a tree contractor to pull the wool over your eyes. It comes down to character and integrity.”

That’s great – but how can we tell that a company has a character and integrity?

“The best way is to talk to their past clients,” Bob said. “For example, some of my clients have hired me five or six times over the last 15 years. You want to talk to repeat customers. That tells you a lot about a tree company. For example, our motto is, ‘We want to be the tree company you would refer to your mother.’”

Why chose this motto? “Many of the referrals we get are for parents and older family members. They happen to trust and often do not get two or three estimates to compare. This means our clients are counting on us to take care of their family members,” Bob said.

“Now when I first bought the company I didn’t know the tree business yet,” Bob explained. “I hired a bunch of hotshot salespeople to work for me. They were overcharging customers to get bigger commission checks. This didn’t go over well with me since we wanted to be the tree company people referred their mother to.”

So, what did Bob do? “We came up with the idea of doing Job Cost Reports for every job,” Bob said. “If we make more money on the job than we thought we would, we send the client a refund check. This prevents the sales team from overcharging. Each month, we write anywhere from two to ten refund checks. They average anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars each.”

The biggest refund check Bob’s ever mailed out? “The biggest refund check we mailed out was for $1,500. The funny thing is that I sold the job! The lady called me and asked if I made a mistake because she just got a check from us for $1,500. She told me she couldn’t believe it and would be telling everyone on her tennis team about us.”

If you can, talk to past customers of the tree removal company.

So, the lesson here is to talk to past customers. You want a tree company that has both character and integrity to work with, don’t you? Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, then keep looking for a tree removal contractor you can trust. We also suggest looking at online reviews. These, however, don’t replace talking to real customers.

We hope you’ve found this article on how to choose a tree removal service to be helpful! Special thanks to Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE for his time and advice. In Part Two of this article, we’ll discuss the types of insurance that a tree removal service should carry. Thanks for visiting Atlanta Insurance!

Need home insurance? We can help you build a home insurance policy that’s specially tailored to your needs and risks. We’ll get you a free quote, too – all you have to do is fill out our quote form or give us a call today.