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Licensed Landscaper in Boston, MA

How to Hire a Good Landscaper in Boston

Upgrading your home's landscape in the City of Boston can add an extra 20 percent to its real value, increase its aesthetic appeal and also provide you with several environmental benefits. While you may want to handle your lawn care by yourself, designing and maintaining a landscape that commands attention and premium will require the services of a professional landscaper.

When in search of a landscaping company in Boston, in addition to ensuring that the professional is conversant with the city's landscape regulations, you should also endeavor to get satisfactory answers to the following questions:

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Landscaper in the City of Boston

  1. Are You Licensed to Practice as a Landscaper in the City of Boston?

    The regulation of professionals in the City of Boston is typically handled at the state level, and contractors that perform landscaping activities in the city are generally exempt from state-required registration and licensing requirements. However, landscape contractors that apply pesticides as part of their services must possess a commercial applicator license issued by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. Parties that wish to obtain this license may do so by creating a user account on the state's ePlace Portal and registering for a licensing examination via this portal. Applicants that pass this examination will also be required to apply for their licenses via this portal.

    The department also provides interested parties with access to an online bulletin that can be used to glean information on its pesticide examination and licensing process. If your landscaping project involves the application of pesticides, then you should always make sure that your Landscaper possesses a valid applicator license. You can verify state-issued pesticide applicator licenses online via the Department of Agricultural Resources' Lookup and Confirm webpage. Queries concerning pesticide licensing can also be directed to this department's Boston office at (617) 626-1700.

    Also, considering that landscapers are typically not required to be registered or licensed in the City of Boston, it may be in your best interest to hire one that is a member of, or has been certified by a professional organization. These types of organizations typically provide some form of regulation for their members, and landscape contractors that either belongs to or have been certified by them are expected to discharge their duties professionally and competently. This in turn gives you a measure of confidence that your landscaping project will be satisfactorily handled. Examples of professional organizations that certify landscapers in Boston include the Massachusetts Association of Landscape Professionals, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the Tree Care Industry Association, the International Society of Arboriculture, and the Professional Grounds Management Society.

    Note that you should always authenticate a landscaper's claims of membership or certification with the appropriate professional organization. It is also a good idea to contact the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations to find out if there are any other contractor-related regulations that may apply to your specific landscaping project. This office can be contacted via email, by calling (617) 973-8787 and (888) 283-3757, or in person at any of the following locations:

    • 501 Boylston Street
    • Suite 5100
    • Boston, MA 02116
    • 1000 Washington Street
    • Suite 710
    • Boston, MA 02118
  2. How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Landscapers in the City of Boston?

    Landscaping companies in Boston typically consider several factors before charging for their services. These include the type of service that is being requested and the specific nature and scope of this service, as well as the cost of getting the necessary materials for the project. Depending on the landscaper that you contact, your bill may be calculated using either an hourly, fixed fee, per linear foot rate, per square foot rate, or a combination of these billing structures. Nonetheless, you should always get and compare estimates from several Landscapers in the city to avoid overpaying a particular contractor. Doing this also gives you a fair estimate of the average cost of the required services in your area and is useful in helping you prepare a budget for your landscaping project.

    A landscaper in Boston earns an average wage of $41,860 annually. The table below provides a cost comparison of the average hourly wages of landscaping and groundskeeping workers in Boston against those of this category of individuals across the rest of Massachusetts and other major American cities:

    Boston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $20.13
    Massachusetts Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $20.10
    New York City Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $18.58
    Los Angeles Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $19.04
    Chicago Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $16.89
    Houston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $14.69
    Phoenix Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $14.91

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  3. Do You Comply with the City of Boston Landscape Ordinance?

    Landscaping activities in the City of Boston are influenced by several state and local laws. These include the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, the Boston Wetlands Ordinance, and Article 22 of the Boston Zoning Code. It is important to make sure that the landscaper you hire is conversant with all these laws, especially as they pertain to your specific landscaping project. Failure to adhere to the provisions of these landscaping laws and regulations can result in monetary fines and other administrative sanctions.

    State and local landscaping laws are typically implemented in the City of Boston to conserve the value of its land and buildings, encourage the appropriate use of land, protect wetland plant habitats and promote the health and safety of the city's inhabitants. Some requirements of these laws include obtaining permits before commencing any work on wetlands and the mandatory installation and maintenance of landscaping or screening in certain city districts. You can get more information on landscaping laws that are applicable in the City of Boston and the specific requirements of these laws that pertain to your project by contacting the Boston Conservation Commission at (617) 635-3850. Inquiries can also be directed to the city's Inspectional Services Department at (617) 635-5300.

  4. Will You Get the Landscaping Permit Required as per the City of Boston Code?

    Per state law, permits are required for certain types of landscaping activities in the City of Boston, such as:

    • Pruning or clearing naturally vegetated areas that are within a resource area or a 100-foot buffer zone. This includes removing invasive plant species
    • Planting trees, shrubs, and groundcovers in wetland resource areas

    Parties that wish to obtain these permits, which are referred to as wetland permits, will be required to file a notice of intent with the Boston Conservation Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Depending on the nature of the project, the submission of additional documentation, such as a WPA form 1, a local notice of intent application form, project plans, project descriptions, abutter notifications, and stormwater reports may be required. State filings can be done online or by delivering the documents in person or via mail to any of the following locations:

    • MassDEP Headquarters
    • 1 Winter Street
    • Boston, MA 02108
    • MassDEP Northeast Regional Office
    • 205B Lowell Street
    • Wilmington, MA 01887

    On the other hand, city filings can be done by submitting two hard copies of the required documents to:

    • Boston Conservation Commission
    • 1 City Hall Square
    • Room 709
    • Boston, MA 02201

    Note that an electronic copy of these documents will also have to be submitted to the commission via email or by providing them with an appropriate cloud download link. Also, the payment of separate city and state fees may be required when filing these documents. Once the documents have been filed, public hearings will be scheduled. These hearings are typically held on the first and third Wednesdays of every month, and parties that properly complete their filings two weeks before the next scheduled hearing date will have their first hearing on that date. Wetland permit application approvals or denials are typically done at these hearings and they must be attended by the proponent of the landscaping project, the property owner, and their consultants. You can direct inquiries concerning the wetland permit issuance process to the Boston Conservation Commission in person at the address provided above or by calling (617) 635-3850.

    It should be noted that if your landscaping project involves construction-related activities like building retaining walls or installing patios, you may be required to obtain a building permit for the job from the Boston Inspectional Services Department. This department issues short-form permits for projects that will not result in a change in a building's living area, fire protection, use, or exits, and long-form permits for projects that significantly alter a building's structure or blueprint. Short-form permit applications can be completed online via the inspectional services portal, while long-form permit applications may be initiated online but have to be completed in person at:

    • Building Division
    • Counter 1
    • 1010 Massachusetts Avenue
    • 5th Floor
    • Boston, MA 02118

    You can get additional information on Boston building permit requirements by contacting the city's Inspectional Services Department at (617) 635-5300 or (617) 635-5360.

  5. What Kind of Landscaping Services Do You Offer?

    It is necessary to find out the specific type or range of services that your intended landscape contractors offer before you conclude hiring arrangements with any of them. This is regardless of whether you need these professionals to provide residential or commercial landscaping services, hardscape installations, routine landscape maintenance, or customized landscape designs. Always confirm that the landscaper has the right tools, materials, and level of experience to deliver your specific project satisfactorily. To this end, ask them for references of past clients that can vouch for them and their level of professionalism. Make sure to contact these references to get first-hand reviews on the landscaper. You should also consider asking the landscaping company for a portfolio of completed jobs they have worked on that are similar to your intended landscaping project.

    Cost estimates of some services offered by landscapers in Boston are listed below:

    Lawn mowing and maintenance
    $39 - $103 per visit
    Lawn fertilization
    $50 - $120 per application
    Residential landscape design
    $80 - $88 per hour
    Landscape installation
    $30 - $70 per hour (labor costs only)
    Garden Planning
    $63 - $72 per hour
    General Bed Maintenance/Detailing
    $35 - $100
    Spring/Fall clean - up
    $125 - $400
    Pruning/Hedging
    $61 - $104
    Lawn irrigation system installation
    $800 - $1,100
    Lawn mulching
    $93 - $126 per cubic yard
    Leaf removal
    $133 - $400
    Sodding
    $1.65 - $2.05 per square foot
    Weed Control
    $40 - $135
  6. What are the Best Types of Grass for Lawns in the City of Boston?

    The City of Boston experiences extreme heat, rain, snow, and flooding weather conditions, and these trends are not expected to stop anytime soon. Grasses that are best suited to the city's unpredictable and somewhat challenging weather conditions include:

    • Creeping bentgrass
    • Fine-leaf fescue
    • Kentucky bluegrass
    • Perennial ryegrass
    • Tall fescue
    • Zoysiagrass

    Factors like the health of your soil, shade and sunlight availability, and watering regularity will affect the outcome of your lawn grass planting. You should consider consulting an experienced landscaper to help you determine the best type of grass that will suit the specific conditions of your lawn. You can get referrals to experienced Landscapers in the city via platforms like the Better Business Bureau and the National Association of Landscape Professionals' online directory.

  7. Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Landscapers in the City of Boston?

    Hiring a landscape contractor that is properly insured is a sure way to avoid unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses and also protect yourself against potential legal liabilities. Landscapers are prone to several on-the-job hazards and injuries, including but not limited to, cuts, lacerations, amputations, chemical exposure, eye and ear injuries, slips, trips, and falls, and lifting-related injuries. In 2020 alone, over 200 fatal and 12,000 nonfatal on-the-job injuries were recorded amongst these professionals by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. As such, even though the City of Boston does not mandate landscapers to carry general liability insurance, you should only hire ones that do so. Request proof of this insurance from the landscaping contractor in the form of an insurance certificate, verify the certificate with the issuing insurance company and make sure that the scope of the coverage is enough for your project.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Landscaper in the City of Boston

In 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office permanently barred a contractor from providing home improvement-related services in the Boston area after this contractor was found guilty of swindling homeowners through various scams. These scams had been carried out by accepting large deposits and advance payments for jobs and failing to deliver the expected services. According to a survey of several consumer protection agencies across the United States, home improvement scams were the second-highest types of complaints made by consumers in the country. To this end, you should always take precautionary steps before and during your landscaping project to ensure that your work is carried out by a legit landscaper. These steps include:

  • Do your homework and get a clear idea of the scope of your project
  • Get referrals to landscapers in Boston from trusted sources. These sources may be friends, family, third-party websites like the Better Business Bureau, or professional organizations like the Massachusetts Association of Landscape Professionals and the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Note that landscapers are typically not required to undergo registration or licensing. Nonetheless, you should consider contacting the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations at (617) 973-8787 and (888) 283-3757 to find out if there may be any state or local regulations that affect your specific project
  • Get and compare cost estimates for the project from at least three landscapers in the city
  • Always request and check references
  • Never agree to a verbal contract. Make sure that you obtain a written contract that details the proposed work, its cost, the materials to be used, and the contractor's name and address
  • Do not sign contracts with blank spaces
  • Never make full payments before work commences. Payments for the project should be made in intervals and in accordance with the progress of the work. Advance payments should not exceed one-third of the project's total cost and final payments should not be made until the job has been completed to your satisfaction
  • Request receipts for each payment that you make and keep these receipts, the project contract, and all other relevant project-related documentation properly

Complaints concerning the fraudulent or deceptive actions of landscapers in Boston can be filed with the city's Consumer Affairs Division by calling (617) 635-3834. These complaints can also be filed directly with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office online or by mailing a completed consumer complaint form to:

  • Office of the Attorney General
  • Consumer Advocacy & Response Division
  • One Ashburton Place
  • 18th Floor
  • Boston, MA 02108

Queries concerning this office's consumer complaint process can be directed to its consumer hotline at (617) 727-8400 between the hours of 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays.