Landscaping is a business that has many rewards for those who like to be outdoors, enjoy interacting with customers and are good at designing, building and/or maintaining lawns. Many landscape contractors start off with smaller residential jobs but over time move on to larger projects such as homeowners’ associations, office parks and other commercial installations.
As your business grows, your insurance needs change. That’s why talking to an insurance professional who knows the landscaping business is a good place to start. An agent or broker can help you choose the right coverage, no matter what size your business is currently or is becoming.
Here are some of the basics you need to be familiar with:
Commercial general liability insurance
Commercial general liability (CGL) is an important coverage that pays for liability claims stemming from property damage, bodily injury or personal injury that occur in the course of operating your business.
With lawsuits on the rise and juries awarding higher settlements, you can’t afford to go without CGL coverage, and many commercial contracts will require it. If a tree limb you’ve trimmed falls on a car or debris from a mower hits one of your customers, a CGL policy would pay for damages and medical care.
CGL policies cover injuries and medical expenses involving non-employees. Employees are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, which we’ll discuss a little later. CGL also covers personal and advertising injuries such as libel, slander and copyright infringement.
Your insurance professional can go over the limits for these types of policies (how much they will pay out) and the situations they cover. Keep in mind that CGL policies won’t cover professional liability or employment liability claims. Those require separate policies.
Commercial property insurance
Property insurance covers business assets such as equipment and tools, as well as the contents of your office such as computers, printers, furniture and files. These policies protect against fire, theft, vandalism, burst pipes and weather-related events like wind and hail damage.
You may need a special policy or endorsement that covers the equipment and tools you use at a customer’s location. Commercial property policies usually limit their coverage to a fixed address, typically the policyholder’s place of business. However, an inland marine policy can fill this gap. These policies cover property in transit and used at a job site.
You may also need heavy equipment insurance, which is separate from the commercial auto coverage you should carry for your trucks and vans. Your insurance professional can help you decide which coverage you need for your vehicles and equipment. Make sure your employees are named on your policies.
BOPs offer bundled coverage
Many landscape contractors start with a business owners policy (BOP), which includes both liability and property insurance. BOPs also include business income insurance, which replaces your income if your business is interrupted by a fire or other catastrophe that damages your property.
BOPs are bundled policies that provide many of the basic protections you need at a lower cost. However, as your business grows or if you have special risks, you’ll need to consider additional coverage.
You can purchase umbrella insurance to increase your BOP’s liability limits. Or you might consider a commercial package policy (CPP), which allows you to customize your coverage. In addition, landscapers associations and professional societies often work with managing general agents to offer a program policy tailored to your industry.
Program policies provide most of the coverage you would typically need in your type of business. Several companies offer policies tailored to landscape designers, lawn care services, horticulturalists and tree-trimming services.
Workers’ compensation insurance
Most states don’t require sole proprietors to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, but it’s a coverage you’ll need if you hire employees for your commercial accounts. Workers’ comp provides benefits to employees if they are injured or become sick on the job, and it’s required by law in nearly every state.
Workers’ comp can be expensive for occupations deemed to be a high risk. If you have employees who climb trees, for example, their rates may be higher. Exposure to pesticides and use of dangerous equipment may also affect your rates.
Your claims experience (known as the experience modifier) also determines the amount of premium you pay. A high experience modifier can increase your premiums or result in your being declined by an insurer. If you can’t find insurance in the regular market, you’ll need to purchase it from your state’s assigned risk pool.
To keep your rates lower, follow sound safety practices, including making sure workers wear protective gear and providing training on the safe use of equipment and vehicles. Consult an insurance professional who specializes in workers’ compensation to get the best rates for your business.
Professional liability insurance
Commercial accounts can bring the potential for greater professional liability exposure. A simple oversight on your part could be costly if it causes property damage or injury. For example, if your landscape design calls for the wrong type of plants and they have to be replaced or if a retaining wall you installed falls down and hurts someone, you could be sued for damages.
Professional liability insurance protects your firm against claims for errors and omissions, incomplete and inaccurate work and breach of contract. Design professionals, in particular, should carry this coverage. Your insurance professional can help you select a policy tailored to the landscaping business.
Employment practices liability insurance
As you expand your business and take on larger jobs, you’ll need to hire additional workers. You may be used to running things yourself, but you won’t be able to do that with bigger projects. You’ll need to delegate, which increases the possibility of employment practices wrongdoing.
Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) covers liability issues that occur regarding hiring, firing and discrimination. Discriminatory hiring, sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination are just a few claims you could face. These types of claims can be quite costly. An EPLI policy is designed to pay your legal expenses if a claim occurs.
A good EPLI provider will work with you to ensure that you have the human resources procedures in place to prevent wrongdoing. These should include written policies against discrimination and harassment and consistent real-life adherence to fair practices.
Get the right coverage in 3 easy steps
There’s a lot to consider in commercial landscaping, from bidding on contracts to hiring a full-time crew. But don’t forget about insurance as you focus on building a successful business.
Step 1 – Submit your information via our quote request form
Step 2 – We’ll do the research and send you a personalized quote
Step 3 – Sign the paperwork and pay your premium
We know how overwhelming getting the right insurance plan can be when there’s so much information to sort through. Don’t waste another second finding insurance on your own. Talk to one of our insurance professionals about protecting your firm so you’ll have the peace of mind and confidence to take on those large accounts.
This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
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