Insurance for Landscapers: 6 Questions to Ask Before Renewing

By: Laura Kiley, CISR ELITE, PWCAM

Laura has worked in the insurance industry for nearly 30 years. She holds a P&C license and has the CISR Elite designation.

insurance for landscapers_FAQsIf you’re like most green business owners, the last thing you have the time or the inclination to do is compare insurance for landscapers. Even if you’re pretty unhappy with the service or rates you’re getting now, the prospect of change probably seems overwhelming. And the search for alternatives? Not exactly on the top of your to-do list.

But there are major reasons to rethink your company’s coverage and the professionals who help you (or don’t help you) manage risk. If you’re not sure what they are, the following information is worth a read on your next coffee break. Here are six questions to ask when evaluating landscapers’ insurance:

1. How experienced is my agency in providing insurance for landscapers?

Choosing an insurance broker with a longstanding, local presence is important. But don’t equate history with industry knowledge. A lot of agencies will take on landscaping clients without really understanding the coverage/policy details that affect companies like yours. They may not have access to insurance carriers that offer niche plan components or specific discounts, like the one available to members of the Massachusetts Association of Landscape Professionals (MLP).

Check to ensure that your prospective insurance partner is successfully serving other companies like yours. Ask if you can contact a few customer references to get firsthand testimonials, like this one from Brian Churchill, Co-Founder and COO of The Groundskeeper in Ashland, MA:

“We have been working with C&S’ landscaping insurance experts since we began our business in 1994. Their knowledge of our industry sets them apart from all other insurance brokers. We rely heavily on the team at C&S when we need a quick turnaround on a registration, expert advice on interpreting contracts, or assistance with a difficult audit. They are truly our advocate with renewals and claims. I couldn’t recommend anyone more.”

2. What’s the scope of service I’m getting?

Comprehensive service is another defining factor that’s easy to overlook… until you need practical help on the fly. Every time you buy a truck or require registry service, you could be losing valuable work hours to insurance-related errands.  A full-service, landscapers’ insurance broker (with in-house registry services) will take that work out of your hands and get it done for you.

On a bigger scale, comprehensive service should include annual equipment reviews and mid-term audits of your payroll/jobs volume. Many agents fail to reach out to landscaping companies about new equipment purchased or old equipment that was sold or discarded during the previous year. Renewing a policy based on an outdated inventory means you could be paying too much or working with uninsured mowers, spreaders, etc. Meanwhile, mid-term audits help to ensure that big contracts secured throughout the year (requiring a bigger payroll) don’t translate into a giant insurance bill that’s suddenly due in full.

3. How deep is my agency’s bench strength?

Let’s say you’ve been doing business with the same small agency for years. Your agent is a nice guy and he knows your name, which is nice, but he’s also essentially a one-man show. When he gets sick, goes on vacation, or wins the lottery, who will be available to answer your questions or process a claim?

If you have a short list of insurance brokers in mind, take a moment to browse the “Team” page on their websites. Look for a brokerage with more than one or two commercially licensed professionals on hand.

4. Are we getting flexible billing options?

If yours is like most small-to-midsized landscaping companies, seasonality plays a major role in your budget throughout the year. Partners who specialize in insurance for landscapers can find multiple billing options for you—including seasonal plans and plans that coordinate with your payroll, e.g. pay as you go workers comp insurance.

5. Am I getting any added value, beyond an insurance policy?

There are numerous loss control techniques—many of them specific to the landscaping industry—that business owners can implement in order to protect employees and mitigate operational costs. A true insurance partner is someone who works with your team—including owners, HR administrators, and field employees—to oversee your loss control plan. At C&S ,for example, we can help you develop a landscape employee safety manual, and stay current on state/federal legislative updates.

6. When is our policy up for renewal?

It’s important to be aware of your policy renewal date. Because if there are gaps in your coverage or opportunities to save money with another broker/carrier, you’ll want to start the transition process several weeks–if not months–in advance. Can’t find a copy of your policy? Call your insurance broker now. Seriously. Like, right now.

Meanwhile, please reach out with any landscaping insurance coverage questions you may have. Our team is happy to provide a broker comparison checklist to help you evaluate your current coverage, in terms of the above considerations and more.

Ask the right questions before choosing a MA commercial insurance agent.
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