Unfortunately, contracts are violated more often than we’d like. But it’s not always worth the time and effort to sue the client. This LawnSite member sought advice for dealing with a new property manager who seems unaware of the contract’s terms or has chosen to ignore the agreement. Here’s what his peers on LawnSite had to say.
FIBER_TEK: We have a fairly large contract with an apartment management company that includes irrigation startup and winterization services. They now want to perform the winterization service themselves with their maintenance employees. If I have the contract for that work, should I send them a bill for that work anyway? It is only a few hundred dollars, [but] I am not confident that this would be a smart business decision if or when they decide to ask for a bid for next season. This contract keeps my crew busy for about nine to 10 hours per week. We also have bush trimming in the contract that they added to a tree removal and trimming contract with another company. This new manager is not the manager that signed the contract this spring, so I am not sure if they even know what is in the contract. I am not even sure if it would be worth bringing up, but there is a legally binding contract in place. Any advice?
MowerGuy: I’d make sure the new guy knew it was in the contract. If they still want their own guys to do it, I’d see what a competent lawyer would have to say about it. Don’t threaten them with a lawyer; just talk with one for legal advice. I’m not sure if the contract breach would involve a refund or not. I’d also explain that winterization is very easy to botch, and in most areas you need to have an applicator’s license for at least herbicides. Weed and feed is also controlled in my area for commercial and custodial applications.
Valley View Lawns: We don’t do weed and feed applications. We prepay another company and get a 10 percent discount, then charge the property owner the full amount.
grassmonkey0311: Just to prove a point, I’d drop them completely for violating the contract. Make the new manager work for his paycheck. I’d, of course, only do this if he insists his employees will do it even after you review the contract with him.
Dawson: I wouldn’t risk a good paying commercial customer over a few hundred bucks for work you don’t have to do anymore. But maybe it’s easier to replace large accounts in your market?
iand: I would explain very politely to the new guy that it was in the contract. I’d also explain to them that winterization is very easy to mess up and that you will accept no liability for any mistakes that may be made, but will be happy to repair any mistakes at a price. Always weigh potential losses against potential gains. To me, the risk of not making a few hundred to still make a few thousand seems like a no-brainer.
wheatus: It’s a signed contract. It’s binding, but no one is going to take legal action for a few hundred bucks. Now is the time to get this new manager on your side. Politely let him know these services are in the contract. Tell him that it’s a contract modification and that you are OK with it. I might go as far as offering to explain winterization to his employees, but he will need to sign something acknowledging that you will not be responsible for damages resulting from improper winterizing and that repairs will not be covered under the existing contract. I’d probably put a clause in the contract making you the designated repair contractor since you are the one who deals with the irrigation system. That will probably be enough that he will just let you do the work so he doesn’t have to assume the risk.
3 Must-Have Contract Clauses
This advice from Patrick McGuiness, one of the founding partners of Zlimen & McGuiness, provides general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice.
1. Attachments/merger clause: This clause lists any other documents that are intended to become a part of the contract being signed. A bid sheet, cost estimate and proposal, as well as project designs, plans, renderings, materials specifications and warranty information are commonly attached.
2. Promotional use clause: Get permission to take pictures and/or video of the project for use in future marketing materials. Also mention promotional yard signs and how long they will be left on-site.
3. Utilities clause: If the project involves digging, your company is responsible for marking public utilities. The owner is responsible for marking private utilities and any damages resulting from unmarked or mismarked locations.