Landscaping Contractor Insurance: How To Get The Right Coverage

What are the unique landscaping insurance coverages you must consider before purchasing coverage?

How do you get the most competitive landscaping contractor insurance rates in the market?

We’re going to answer these questions today. Here we go…

 

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For insurance purposes, what constitutes a landscaping business?

Landscape contractors work with residential and commercial clients to design, install, and maintain outdoor spaces, combining plants and architectural features such as decks or paths in a manner attractive to customers.

The design may focus on aesthetics, functionality, or both, but should include consideration of climate, winds, and existing natural features. It may be purely decorative or may include practical elements, like hiding a wellhead or sprinkler system.

Services offered may include the installation of sod for a lawn, planting of trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, and other plants, or the installation of fountains, lighting, retaining walls, walkways, or other architectural enhancements.

Some landscape contractors will change the contours of the grounds, while others will limit their work to planting new or maintaining existing lawns and plants. Additional operations may include installation or winterization of underground sprinkler systems, tree trimming, nurseries, or lawn and garden shops.

Landscaping Contractor Insurance

NOTE: If you’re looking for information specifically on landscaper workers’ comp insurance, follow the link for a deep dive.

There are specific insurance coverages that address landscaping business risks.

Property Insurance

Property exposures may be limited to an office and a storage yard for vehicles or equipment, or include the sale of live and growing plants, shrubs, bushes, trees, or flowers.

These may grow outside in a yard or in a structure such as a greenhouse. Both the structure and the growing stock are susceptible to damage by fire, wind, hail, and vandalism.

The stock is also vulnerable to loss by frost, animals, or insects. Older greenhouses made of glass may be subject to frequent breakage losses.

Newer greenhouses are simply framing with plastic coverings, which need frequent replacement as they tend to yellow or cloud in the weather and block out sunlight needed by plants. Special programs and coverages are available to protect the structures and the growing plants or crops. If live or growing plants are sold, power outages of refrigeration equipment can result in high spoilage losses.

Equipment should be maintained on a regular basis, with backup generators available. Fire hazards can be high from the flammables used in the repair of vehicles or equipment, such as solvents and degreasers, and the chemicals in fertilizers and insecticides.

Crime exposures are from employee dishonesty, including theft of customers’ goods by employees. Background checks, including criminal histories, should be obtained on each employee prior to hiring. There must be a separation of duties between persons handling deposits and disbursements and reconciling bank statements. Customers may pay in cash for smaller jobs. Receipts should be required for these transactions.

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance is an absolute MUST coverage for every landscape contractor.

Premises liability exposures can be light at the landscaper’s own premises due to the limited number of visitors. If there is a nursery, the exposure increases as customers may slip or fall on wet flooring or dirt or trip over equipment.

Steps and uneven floor surfaces should be prominently marked. Plants and equipment stored in the open can present an attractive nuisance.

Off-premises exposures are moderate due to hazards at the job site. The area of operation should be restricted by barriers and proper signage to protect the public from slips and falls over equipment and supplies during the installation process. Stones or other debris may be thrown by power mowers, trimmers, and other equipment.

Tree trimming may result in falling tools, branches, or debris that may injure persons, damage vehicles or other property, or fall onto power or communication lines.

The application of lawn chemicals presents both a premises and completed operations hazard that could result in serious long-term injury, illness, or disease to customers and passersby. Overspray from operations could result in small but frequent property damage losses.

Environmental Liability Insurance

Environmental impairment exposure can be very high due to the potential for air, land, or water pollution from the use of horticultural chemicals such as insecticides, fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides, and fuels for machinery.

The landscaper must comply with all federal, state, and municipal regulations regarding the use and disposal of chemicals and waste products. Employees who handle chemicals must have the appropriate licenses and certifications individually.

Worker’s Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance exposures are high due to the operation of machinery and equipment, work at heights, work on uneven ground, and exposure to underground or above-ground cables and lines. Landscaping is labor-intensive and may require employees to work under all kinds of weather conditions.

The use of power-cutting equipment can result in cuts and possible amputations. Back injuries, hernias, sprains, and strains can result from lifting or working from awkward positions. Slips, trips, falls, foreign objects in the eye, hearing impairment from noise, and muscle strains are common.

Chemical applications may cause lung problems along with allergic reactions and other more serious complications.

Workers can be crushed when building architectural features, electrocuted when coming into contact with electricity, or be injured in automobile accidents. Casual labor, seasonal workforce, and high turnover present a significant loss control challenge.

Contractor’s Errors & Omissions Insurance

You want to make sure that you have contractors’ errors & omissions insurance (E&O), or at least consider contractors’ E&O. This is a coverage that most landscape contractors are even offered let alone purchase (even though it’s a huge exposure point).

What contractor’s E&O insurance does is cover you for all your design decisions.

You decide to help someone and put a retaining wall in or cut into a certain section of ground. And from a design perspective, something happens, you deflect water in someplace, and it creates pooling and creates an issue, and now a basement’s flooded.

Now that homeowner is suing you because of a design decision you made. Nothing in your work was actually wrong, but it was the decisions, the design decisions that you made in taking a certain action that caused the loss.

Not covered on a commercial general liability policy. You need a contractors’ errors and omissions or professional liability policy to cover that.

The Rub

These are just a few of the insurance coverages you want to consider.

The key to finding the best price is working with carriers who want to write your business, not just a carrier who has an appetite for landscapers, because a lot of carriers will write landscapers.

This doesn’t mean they want landscapers. And it’s the carriers that want landscapers that have the best pricing.

This is exactly what we do at Rogue Risk.

We’re artisan contracting insurance specialists.

If this is the kind of relationship that you would like with your insurance provider, we would love to talk to you.

I look forward to introducing you to a new way of viewing your insurance program.

Thank you,

Ryan Hanley

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