Q How do I find good help?
A If you’re looking for a general gardener to help out on a regular basis, start by asking neighbours, friends and family whether they can recommend anyone. You could also check Which? Trusted Traders (trustedtraders.which.co.uk).
If you’d like to engage the services of a professional for a specific, one-off job – such as tree surgery or lawn treatment – find out if such tasks come under the umbrella of an official body and whether that body has a list of approved contractors. For example, The Arboricultural Association (01242 522152 trees.org.uk) annually updates its list of approved tree surgeons, all of whom should be qualified and appropriately insured.
Caption: Hiring someone to help in your garden needn't be difficult
If, as with lawn treatments, there is no official body, then use our tips (above) for finding a general gardener. You could also Whether you’d like to regularly employ a general gardener or engage a professional for a one-off job, Which? Legal Service suggests the best ways to find and hire help, and what to do if things go wrong look out for lawn-treatment-company vans outside homes in your area, then ask the householder for a reference – they may even invite you to have a look at the job itself, so you can assess the quality of the workmanship.
Whatever kind of professional you plan to use, initial consultations are usually free, but check before anyone comes round. Ask them to bring evidence of their relevant qualifications and public liability insurance (especially important for tree surgeons, who also need professional indemnity insurance). In all instances, ask for references and follow these up. Agree the work and price in writing and in advance of the work starting.
Q Do I need a contract?
A Yes. You would need to have 'a contract for the provision of services' whether you engage someone on a regular basis or for a one-off job.
This, in effect, is the same as when employing a plumber to mend a leaking tap or a builder to build you a new porch – you’d be obliged to pay them for the work done and that would be all.
Q What if I want to ask someone to carry out work on a regular basis, using my tools and at a pre-arranged time and day each week?
A This is likely to be considered an employer-employee relationship, because you will specify the time and dates they will work and what they will do (such as mowing the lawn), and you will supply the equipment that they use.
Ideally, however, you should avoid this situation, as you will also be responsible Which? works for you for paying them for breaks and checking their legal status to work.
To avoid this, you need to engage them on a contract for services, so that they state what days and hours will be worked, and supply all equipment required. A total price can be agreed or you can agree an hourly rate, but if you pay someone by the hour it may take longer to get the work done.
As long as you do all this, your gardener works for lots of other people and they invoice you at the end of the job, it is more likely that they will be a contractor than an employee and that you are entering into a contract for services.
Q But what if I want them to regularly come and garden?
A This can still be expressed as a contract for services, but you will have to word the contract appropriately – 'to maintain the garden in good condition for the summer season', for example.
Q And what should I do if they want to use my tools?
A It’s far better for them not to use your tools, as you then avoid entering the realms of what happens if they injure themselves using them. Whether your contractor uses your gardening tools and equipment is not conclusive in deciding whether they are a contractor or an employee. In the case of a dispute, it will be one of the factors a tribunal looks at.
If your contractor uses your tools for whatever reason and breaks them, then you may have a claim against them in negligence or under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, if they did not exercise reasonable skill and care in the performance of the service.
Q What if they kill my plants?
A If your gardener mistakes your prize plants for weeds and digs them up, for example, then you will have a claim against them under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. This piece of law says that it will be a term of the contract you have with them that they must use reasonable care and skill when providing their services. In this case, they would have to replace the plants that they dug up in error. The same applies if they over-apply fertiliser or weedkiller to your lawn and it dies. In Scotland, this requirement to use reasonable care and skill is created by the 'common law'. You’re entitled to claim the cost of replacing your plants or laying new turf. If their invoice is for more than £100, try to pay for some or all of it by credit card. Your card company will then be as liable as the contractor for any breach of contract.
Q What if they cause damage in my garden?
A Any materials used have to be 'of satisfactory quality' and 'fit for purpose'. So, if a chemical is used that is too harsh for delicate plants, say, they will be responsible for any damage caused.
Q What if I book someone to do a job and they don’t turn up?
A If you have a contract and the gardener doesn’t turn up when he is supposed to, they will be in breach of contract. As it is a contract for services, they should be able to send a substitute if the original gardener is not available, unless it was a specific term of the contract that a specific gardener would provide the services.