Before engaging a landscape contractor for your next project, it is important that you have all the information that you need. By making sure that you ask the right questions at the outset, you can make sure that the contractor is the right fit for your project and can also avoid misunderstandings down the track. But what questions should you ask? See our handy 12-question checklist below.

Question 1: What is Your Contractor Licence Number?

When you are having residential work conducted, you should only deal with a contractor who is currently licensed by SA Fair Work. All residential landscapers need to be licensed (either for Structural Landscaping or Building).

When you have been given the Licence Number of the Contractor, you can check their licence validity and make sure that it is current by visiting the SA Fair Work website. SA Fair Work can also provide information regarding any licence restrictions applied to the licence, as well as any complaints that have been lodged.

It is a condition on application for all Members to have appropriate licensing prior membership with MLSA.

Visit Fair Work SA

Question 2: Where Can I See Examples of Your Work?

Ask the Contractor for the addresses of previous properties they have landscaped and if you are comfortable, ask the owners if they were satisfied with the results.

Some questions you can ask previous clients include:

  • Was the project finished on time?
  • Did they stay close to the quoted costs?
  • Was there proper supervision of the other tradespeople?
  • Did any defective work get fixed promptly?
  • Would they recommend the contractor?
  • Was there good communication with the contractor?

Question 3: What Other Jobs Have You Got at the Moment?

A contractor with a lot of other work on may not be able to properly manage your job as well.

Question 4: Who Will Supervise the Work?

A contractor doing a large job may get a supervisor to manage the project.

Make sure that the supervisor has:

  • Sufficient experience in the type of work you want done; and
  • Holds a current Supervisor Certificate from SA Fair Trading; or
  • Their Contractor’s Licence is appropriately endorsed.

Question 5: Do You Have Proper Insurance?

It is important to check that the Contractor has all the necessary insurance cover to protect you and your family home if something goes wrong.

The different issues and types of insurance that may be required include:

  • Building Indemnity Insurance – For any works over $12K, the Landscaper is required to take out Building Indemnity Insurance for the work. This insurance is obtained for each project separately. If you are a home owner, check that a valid insurance certificate has been issued for the work you want done BEFORE signing a contract and BEFORE work has begun or money is paid. Without this insurance, you will not be able to be compensated for defective or incomplete building work in the even that the builder dies, becomes insolvent or disappears.

The costs of Building Indemnity Insurance is normally passed on to the client as the Insurance is a project-related cost.

  • Public Liability Insurance – this is a business-related expense that your Contractor should already have in place. Ask to see a Certificate of Currency.
  • Workers Compensation or insurance – this is also a business-related expense and your Contractor should already have taken out this insurance. Ask to see a Certificate of Currency.

Question 6: How Much Deposit Do You Need?

Under SA Home Building Legislation, the maximum deposit you can be required to pay is 10% prior to the commencement of work.

If the work is required to be covered by insurance under the Building Indemnity Insurance (ie the contracted amount is above $120), it is illegal for the Contractor to request a deposit or any other payment under the contract unless the insurance has been taken out and a Certificate of Insurance has been given to you.

IMPORTANT: It is recommended that you read the contract and the certificate of insurance carefully. Do not sign any documents until you understand and are satisfied with all the terms and conditions. If you do not understand any conditions you should ask your contractor to clarify them.

Check Building Indemnity Insurance

Question 7: When Can You Start the Work and How Long Will It Take?

If you want the work to be completed by a specific date, make sure that the timeframe provided in the contract:

  • Is realistic
  • Takes into account possible delays caused by bad weather conditions or the late supply of materials
  • Has a start date and completion date.

Make sure that you and the contractor are clear on what is considered by ‘complete’. Ideally, this should be clearly stated in the contract.

Question 8: What Sort of Contract Will be Used?

It is a legal requirement in SA that, if the cost of labour and materials for the work is more than $12K, a written contract is used between the parties.

Contracts are not just legal requirements, but they will protect you if anything goes wrong.

Purpose written contracts have been drawn up by The Master Landscapers of South Australia for exclusive use by our Members if desired.

Question 9: How Much Will the Work Cost?

When asking this question, make sure that:

  • The Contractor includes the total cost of the work
  • Estimated costs are clearly stated and defined in the contract, and are realistic
  • You understand how and why costs may change and how the total cost can be affected (eg. Some builders will specify site costs in the contract as a ‘provisionary cost item’. This means that this cost may change depending on what the builder’s actual costs incurred are in preparing the site. If the site is difficult to build on, or the builders hit solid rock, it will cost you more.)
  • The contract outlines if the quoted price is inclusive of GST.

Question 10: When Are Progress Payments to be Made?

Most building contracts have a fixed price and should provide for payments to be made for completed work, rather than on time spent on the job. Progress payments should be equal to the dollar value of work completed.

Question 11: What Happens if the Work is Defective?

This question will help you to get a sense of how the builder is likely to respond to any complaints you have about the work. You should know in advance what your options are if a dispute arises.

Question 12: Who Cleans the Site?

Get this clear from the start so that when work is completed you are not left with a big mess or a dangerous building site. Make sure an agreement about cleaning the site regularly is included in the contract.