Trimming Troubles

We need to get that willow tree in the back yard trimmed. I’m sure not going to do it. So today a guy came by looking for work trimming trees, and offered a free estimate. I thought, “how serendipitous” and showed him the willow tree. He offered to do the job for $275 cash. I said I’d talk it over with The Wife and get right back to him.

I did talk it over with The Wife, but mainly what I wanted to do was look him up on the CSLB website. Sure enough, no license. Yes, you need a license to trim trees, specifically a C-61/D-49 limited specialty license. My new friend had no license, and a phone call to him to ask if he had one, perhaps under a different name, confirmed that he was unlicensed. I thanked him for his time but said I couldn’t hire an unlicensed contractor.

Why did I care? Two reasons. First, I’d like to be a judge one day. I sit as a small claims judge from time to time and every time I’ve sat as a small claims judge I’ve had contractor disputes. So I know perfectly well you must be a licensed contractor to do work, and it’s illegal to do that sort of work without a license. Although I’d be in a position to get the money back by suing him (it would be an automatic win) I think that would be a pretty sleazy thing to do. And, I would not want word getting out that I hired an unlicensed contractor and thus demonstrated personal disregard for the law, or worse yet, a willingness to cynically manipulate it for my own benefit.

Second, tree trimming is physically dangerous. If you fall out of a tree with a live chainsaw, you can get badly hurt, or even die. And if I hire an unlicensed contractor, that person becomes my employee. If he gets hurt while trimming my tree, I am responsible for the injury. But if I hire a licensed contractor, he is required to insure himself or exempt himself with a workers’ compensation insurance policy, which means his injury is not my problem. I don’t want the personal financial responsibility for someone getting maimed or killed on the off chance that such a thing actually happens.

So the guy came back about twenty minutes later and offered to give me a referral to his friend who is licensed. I apologized and said that I work in the law, and it would look bad, and the guy said he understood. Very friendly and I’ll be happy to see if his licensed friend will do the job at the same price. Of course, I now need to find out now if $275 for trimming a big, overgrown willow tree is a good price.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.