The Illinois Landscape Contractors Association (ILCA) is cracking down on uninsured landscaping companies in the state in an attempt to improve competition.
A license is not required for landscape contractors in Illinois, but workers compensation insurance is mandated by the State of Illinois. However, homeowners rarely ask for a certificate of insurance when hiring a landscaper.
“I can count on one hand the number of residential customers who ask to see a certificate of insurance,” Lisa Fiore, operations manager of Don Fiore Company based in Lake Bluff, Illinois, told Daily North Shore. “All my commercial accounts ask for it.”
While property owners who hire uninsured landscapers aren’t likely to be brought into workers compensation court, according to Les Johnson, an attorney who handles such matters, they could end up being a defendant should someone be injured due to some form of negligence.
“A neighbor could be hit by a pebble flying across your yard,” Scott Grams, ILCA’s executive director said.
If the landscaper does not have liability insurance, the homeowner could be responsible for this sort of incident.
Fiore, who is also president of ILCA, wants citizens to help enforce the law by requesting a certificate of insurance and reporting the companies that do not have one. Illinois only has six enforcement officers, making it harder to randomly check that companies are abiding by the law.
“Enforcement is a complaint-driven process,” Ben Noble, a spokesperson for the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC) told Daily North Shore. “Many times other companies eagerly report noncompliance because employers that fail to follow the law have an unfair competitive advantage over law-abiding companies. At-risk employees also voluntarily notify the commission of their employer not having insurance.”
The association recently conducted an unscientific survey to see how many landscapers in Illinois carry workers compensation insurance. It first checked to see if all of its members were on the IWCC website and Grams says there was 99 percent compliance.
ILCA then bought a mailing list of landscapers and 86 percent of those polled said they had workers compensation policies. The numbers became troubling when the association asked one of its supplier members for a list of all the landscapers who buy materials from them.
“That’s where we got the 40 percent noncompliance number,” Grams told Daily North Shore.
The cost of failing to have workers compensation insurance can be up to $500 a day and the money is collected into a fund for workers who are injured while working for an uninsured company, but this money is rarely enough.
“We had an employee who had a rotator cuff injury from pulling the rip cord on a mower,” Fiore told Daily North Shore. “Medical costs can be over $500,000 for that kind of stuff.”
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