How To Hire The Best Landscaping Vendor For Your HOA
How To Hire The Best Landscaping Vendor For Your HOA
Landscaping for your HOA is probably one of the biggest expenses your group has. Finding a good landscaping vendor can be time consuming and difficult. The wrong choice can cause property prices to fall, homeowners to be unhappy, and potential homeowners to find another place to buy. It can even put the HOA board in legal jeopardy because board members have a fiduciary duty. That means they have a legally binding duty to make sound business decisions in the interest of all. Not doing so can, in extreme circumstances, land you in jail.
Barriers to Hiring
The bylaws of your HOA should include the steps necessary to hire a landscaping vendor. However, they may not be detailed enough about the steps to satisfy state and local laws. In addition, the large number of stakeholders may make coming to a consensus difficult. The search will be very time consuming, which may frustrate both the board and the community members. Finally, finding a company that can abide by the noise rules and other applicable bylaws may be difficult. However, if you follow the steps outlined in this article, you should be able to hire an excellent landscaping vendor to take care of landscaping your HOA.
Assess Community Needs
The first step is to figure out what you need a landscape vendor to do for your property. To start, walk through the common areas noting anything you need a landscaper to do. This could include obvious things like mowing, but may include fertilizing the landscape, replacing dead or dying plants, repairing the irrigation system, or other maintenance or repairs. You should poll the members of the community to see what they want done, as well. Prepare answers to some of the questions to include in your list of must haves and wants.
- Is fertilizing included?
- Are large trees included?
- Chemical versus hand weeding?
- Where should mulch go?
- What will be the schedule for regular tasks?
- Include any special requests you have such as being sustainable or organic.
- Will they do other things that come up at a reasonable cost?
- Do they do snow removal in the winter?
Developing the RFP
After you have heard from everyone involved and know what you want, write it down. You need to develop a request for proposals (RFP) to send to potential vendors. It should include a written description of all the landscaping requirements, including information on noise restrictions in the bylaws. Include a plot map of the property, a references request, and an information card that has contact information and where to send the bids. In your description of work, make sure the services you want are listed clearly. Before you send out the RFP, get it reviewed by a HOA lawyer to make sure it is legal and follows best practices.
Developing a Vendor List
Now that you have an RFP packet put together, you have to figure out what companies you want to bid on the job. A good way to get the names of some possibilities is to ask for referrals. Ask other HOAs who their vendor is. Ask community members for names. Don’t just pick a company from a Google search. Once you have the names, check their online reviews and websites. You can tell a lot about a company from their website. It should have photos of their work, the company philosophy, a list of services offered, and it may have educational posts and testimonials from satisfied customers. Pick at least five companies to send the RFP to.
Evaluating the Bids
When you start receiving the bids, don’t just pick the one with the lowest price. You need to evaluate the cost versus the value of the services offered. A guy that just mows the lawn will be a lot cheaper than a responsive, full-service vendor. However, when you look at what each offer, the full-service vendor is clearly superior. You will need to pick three companies to investigate further.
Walk-Through and Interview
Invite each of the three companies to do a walk-through and interview. The company should be happy to send a representative to talk to you. If not, pick another vendor to interview, so you have three company interviews. State law says you must evaluate and interview at least three companies. During the interview, you will need to ask pointed questions.
- What makes your company the best landscaping vendor for us?
- What value-added services do you offer? This would be things like sprinkler maintenance, snow removal, landscape design capabilities.
- Do they do background checks on their employees?
- Are they insured? This is a must so if something happens, the HOA is not held responsible.
- How often will they perform the maintenance?
- Will they come on demand?
- What is their contract termination policy?
- Do they include line-item invoices?
- How is their staff trained?
- Will the same staff come each time?
- Does the staff wear uniforms?
- Do they have a disaster plan? This would be for a tornado that caused a need for tree removal, or some other disaster.
- Do they practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and use the lease toxic alternative to treat pests and diseases?
- How long have they been doing commercial landscaping management?
- How quickly will they respond to a call or email?
- What is their environmental safety record?
- Does the company have a horticulture expert on staff?
- Is the company big enough to fully staff your landscape crew needs?
- Will a representative come to board meetings?
- Will they recommend ways to make the landscape better?
Hiring the Best Company for Your HOA
After the interviews are done, your board will have to meet and evaluate each company. Be sure you check every reference, drive by other HOAs maintained by the company, check any certifications and licenses, such as pesticide licenses, and have clearly done your due diligence. Keep all three bids in your HOA records in case you have to prove you did your due diligence. When you have picked a winner, now it is time to write the contract. This should be done in consultation with the HOA lawyer you use. Make sure you include the following information:
- A clear list of services covered by the contract
- The cost of add-ons
- The contract duration
- A termination clause
- Whether or not the contract automatically renews
- What insurance the company must maintain
- What certifications and licenses the company must maintain (pesticide use, irrigation certificate, etc.)
- Point of contact for HOA and vendor
Landscaping for Your HOA
As mentioned, good landscaping can increase property values, give people a nice place to relax, and draw people into moving to your HOA. All Metro Services is a fully responsive company that can take care of all your landscaping needs. We offer everything from mowing to designing and installing a new landscape. We also have experienced arborists to take care of your trees. We will be happy to send a representative to do a walk-though and answer any questions you have. Contact All Metro Services today for your free estimate and leave the landscaping to us.
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