The Risks of Hiring Students & Teens for Landscaping

By: Tim Kane, LIA, AAI, ARM

Tim Kane comes to C&S with over 30 years of experience, specializing in arborist insurance, landscapers’ insurance, snow removal insurance and general contractor insurance.

Massachusetts college kids are already home for the summer. Soon, local high school students will be on vacation too, and many of them are looking for part-time work. You may have gotten a knock on the door or a flier in your mailbox, advertising cheap landscaping, painting, and handyman work.

Thinking of hiring students or teens this season? Think again.

While we applaud these young entrepreneurs for striking out on the own, we have to point out that uninsured contract work is a bad idea for everyone involved. Here’s why:

Many home insurance policies will not cover you for losses (injuries or property damage) incurred by an uninsured contractor. If something goes wrong, you could be held financially responsible for a worker’s injury or permanent disability. This includes the teenager next door, who’s just offering to cut your grass once a week.

And if you think landscaping accidents are one in a million, you haven’t talked to an emergency room doctor lately… According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, roughly 230,000 Americans land in the E.R. every year due to lawnmower and garden tool injuries.

Lawnmowers are capable of creating serious projectile injuries, as they throw yard debris (rocks, sticks, wood chips) at incredibly high speeds. Errant debris can often cause broken windows, cracked windshields, and serious injuries to pets or children playing nearby. It’s not uncommon for mowers to cause serious burns or lacerations to feet and toes. Riding mowers pose the risk of overturning… The list goes on.

So what’s the solution? We recommend two things:

First, only hire insured contractors to do work on your property. You can find experienced, local professionals by using the directory on the Massachusetts Association of Landscape Professionals’ website. The difference in price between an uninsured freelancer and a legitimate landscaping company is not worth the risk you’re assuming.

Second, ask your insurance agent to review the liability coverage terms on your MA home insurance policy. Many homeowners don’t know how much coverage they have if a guest is injured on their property, or if a household member causes an injury elsewhere (e.g. at school or the ballpark). If your limits are too low, it might make sense to supplement this coverage with umbrella insurance, which is surprisingly affordable.

If you have any questions about hiring an uninsured neighbor to do work at your home, please contact us right away. Happy summer!