Contracts / Service Agreement

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by chapandrew6, Jun 2, 2011.

  1. chapandrew6

    chapandrew6 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 35

    This year I dont have contracts or any kind of service agreement with any of my customers but I would like to implement this next year and starting to think of how I would do it.
    1. Do most of you use contracts?
    2. If you do, is it that you cut the yard once a week (even if we have a drought and you dont have to cut)?
    3. Here where I live for the first few months you normally need to cut it once a week (heck, sometimes more) and then after that you might be able to cut back to every 2 weeks or so, how do you handle this?

    I am in business to make money but I also want to work with my clients and offer them what they need. I would like to make a contract that says up until X date it is once a week cut for X price and then after that date you can go to a every other week cut for say 1.5 times the weekly cost.

    Has anyone seen an example contract like this they could send my way?
  2. BestImpressions99

    BestImpressions99 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 491

    How many customers do you have? How long have you been in business. It still wracks my brain how so many guys on here feel the need to get the customers into contracts.

    I've been in business over 12 years now have NEVER had anyone sign a contract. To me guys that contract their clients are doing nothing more than guaranteeing themselves money even when they don't work. You're almost answering your own question above. You nail yourself down with contracts. Ex, you have the customer sign the contract for 1 cut every 10 days in the summer months (drought season). 1 thought is that you kill their grass because you cut no matter what (because you're in contract). Another is lets say the middle of summer and you actually get a good deal of rain (it does happen) and you have to move the person up to ever 7 days for a month just to keep up with it... you can't.

    Do you put adedums and amendments into the contract? People DON'T LIKE contracts. Look at all the cell phone companies with advertisements saying they're no longer having contracts (on TV you see the customer unfolding the contract and just keeps on going and going).

    Your word should be your contract and make sure you bid correctly and thoroughly in the first place and you won't have to worry about it.
  3. BestImpressions99

    BestImpressions99 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 491

    Something you said in your post made me wonder... Are your customers asking for contracts? Watch out if they are the ones asking for it. You could paint yourself into a corner and they would win EVERY TIME.
  4. chapandrew6

    chapandrew6 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 35

    I dont have anyone asking for a contract but at the same time, i had a few people use me one time this year and then never had me cut again and it wastes time and money by quoting the yard, cutting it, and only getting paid 1 time... a lot of work. and i have some people that are like... i want it cut every 7-10 days but call before hand and its like.... i dont wanna go out to cut 1 yard to turn around and 2 days later go cut yards in that same area cuz they wont do a schedule.... I have 7 customers and its my second year cutting grass. Its a part time side job for me....not a full time gig like others.
  5. Dr.NewEarth

    Dr.NewEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,442

    A verbal contract may be legal where you are, but if you ever had to put a lien on the property or go to court you need a written agreement.

    You should be able to search for contract examples here.

    When we get a drought where I am, we still show up on the property every week. There's always some tin can you can kick while you're there.

    On the other hand, when it rains so much here in the spring, some of the leafy hedges grow so damn quick that we can end up doing alot more work having to keep them in shape than what would be considered normal. We can't charge extra for that.

    In fifteen years, I only had one client that wanted money back because we weren't able to cut their dormant lawn during a drought. Lawn watering is their job, unless we are also the contracted sprinkler tech.

    Our contract stipulated how often we would do the hedges and it poured like crazy that spring. We have a diary for each site and log exactly what was done and how long it took. Also, amount of supplies, if some-one used the first-aid kit, and other notes

    The HOA president called me in for a meeting (read: Spanish Inquisition) Even though our crew was on the property for the same amount of time each week all year long, the HOA wanted money back for the lawn not being cut (it would have been damaged had we run a mower over it.) They also knew the lawn went dormant every year before they signed the contract! They had not disclosed this detail.

    I then slyly reciprocated and asked
    for more money for all of the documented hedge work we had to do earlier in the year. I said, "why don't we call it even?" They wouldn't budge.
    Politics are a *****.

    It is in our contract that we aren't responsible for acts of God or damage done by others or any-thing outside of what would be considered normal.

    I include this type of information too- Being a green contract some months require more work and supplies than others. You are being billed on an equal payment plan over nine months (March-Nov.) In the event of termination of this contract by either party, thirty days written notice is required. Full payment is required within 30 days of the invoice date, including money for contingent items not listed in the contract and monies owed to this companies suppliers and subcontracts for work extra work agreed to and done on the property.

    The above isn't verbatum from the contract, but it gives you an idea.

    Look for a two book set on contract writing from Edward Horsey. He published both
    Canadian and U.S versions with different co-writers from each country.

    You can take your contract to a Lawyer for assessment, or have it drawn up for a few hundred dollars.

    In small business we are always dodging bullets. It can get very stressful.
    Use Due Dilligence and Protect yourself
    No matter what any-one else suggests on this site, ultimately it is you that loses money.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2011
  6. Ijustwantausername

    Ijustwantausername LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,456

    Some people use contracts, some don't. Large areas like churches, businesses, yes. Small homes I do if the customer is new. I've had too many people not pay me in the past simply because they don't have the money or the check just goes bounce.

    Some people don't like contracts because when it doesn't rain you still mow. I say that's too bad and I'm in this industry to make money. If it doesn't rain I will go do something else, spray roundup, trim hedges, pick up pine cones/sticks, because there is always something to be done, something! I do it to make it worth their while, luckily we don't have droughts too seldom here.

    No one has given me problems with this method. I had a church this past year that was based on X amount of visits. I took that number, multiplied by the price I would charge per cut and divided by 12.
  7. lawnboy dan

    lawnboy dan LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,712

    no contracts here-they are a rip off for the customer
  8. BestImpressions99

    BestImpressions99 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 491

    Honestly I look at what the customer wants done and frequency of cut is just how the game is played. It's really something you have to live with.

    People don't want to kill their lawn and worse than that, kill their lawn and pay you to do it. Like the Dr. says above, you can do other things than cut if you're in a drought situation.
  9. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,923

    For me, 16 years. I only do residential properties. When asked why an LCO needs a contract for residential customers, the answer is often "for protection." But, nobody is willing to answer the rest of the question, namely, protection from what.

    Some also say, "to be sure I get paid." No, a piece of paper is no assurance of getting paid, just like the absence of a piece of paper is no assurance of not getting paid. Either the residential property owner makes good on their promise to pay, or not, regardless of what document is filed in a drawer someplace (or, most likely filed in the circular can, headed for the trash).

    I've read some examples of "contracts" on LS, and they are not contracts in reality. Some make suggestions on what should be in the "contract," and things like, how often to cut, how much to be paid, etc. These are the simple matters of the business relationship, but are not a "contract." These kinds of statements do not cover things such as indemnification, remedy, process of adjudication and payment for the process, location, etc. Local laws differ from place to place, and the request to "send me a copy of your contract," is meaningless. What applies in one location may have no relevance in another location. Only a lawyer familiar with the local laws and processes is in a position to draft something that has legal merit.

    One more point that I have never understood is why an LCO would insist on a contract that obligates them to a one month, two week, or some other time period for cancellation. Often discussions regarding cancellations speak about the customer needing to give a two week, one month, or some other time period for cancellation. And, following that, is a statement that binds the LCO to the same time period. Why would an LCO want to bind themselves into something they want to cancel. If the relationship has gone sour, why wouldn't you want to walk away immediately, rather than being bound by a two week, or one month obligation to continue services? This part of these discussions has always baffled me, and nobody has ever explained why they want to be bound by something they insisted upon themselves.

    Further, if the customer hires somebody else to do the work, what is your response when you show up and the work is already completed? Your piece of paper is worthless. Go to court to get payments for work not completed, ...? I'm doubting so.
  10. Dr.NewEarth

    Dr.NewEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,442

    A written contract should set out the terms of your agreement with the customer and establish guidelines for both parties to follow, so there are less misunderstandings.

    The majority of my clients have respected this legal document that they
    have signed in good faith.

    It's only a few that cause problems. And there will be problems over time.

    Just protect your business and yourself. Be aware of the laws in your City, State, Province, or Territory and Country.

    I've read on this site that some companies have never had any client problems.
    Perhaps they can publish a book on their magic solution
    that eludes the rest of us.

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