Client relations - when one spouse isn't on on onboard

DVS Hardscaper

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
County Jail
There is nothing worse than doing a job where one spouse isn't onboard with the project. From the very beginning, during, through to the end.



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crazymike

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Ontario
Only thing worse is doing a project at your own house when the spouse isn't on board. Then you have it being, through, end and for many months after.
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OP
DVS Hardscaper

DVS Hardscaper

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
County Jail
We residential contractors almost need a degree in pyschology and a background in marriage counseling.

We all have heard our friends or neighbors say "yeah we bought that new family car, but the Mrs was against it, she said there was nothing wrong with the old one". And we've all kinda expressed a good hearted chuckle and never really given much thought to the scenerio.

Well the fact is, such scenerios DO exist with home improvements. One spouse wants the work done, the other was against it from the get-go.

The contractor starts the work sometimes realizing one spouse doesnt really want you there, and sometimes not realizing one of the spouses does not want you there. Usually as the project progresses you start detecting that someone isn't all that favorable of the project. It doesn't matter if you do everything to a Tee as spelled out in the proposal or as speced on the design. It doesn't matter if your workmanship is second to none. It doesn't matter if you've presented yourself in the most professional manner possible.

It's human nature that if someone really doesn't want something, they're going to have a negative attitude. And going into something with a negative attitude ends with negative results.

Luckily we really do not encounter this problem very often. In the last 16 years we've been building beautiful hardscapes I can only think of 3 or 4 times where it became obvious one spouse wasn't on board with the project.

Not being in favor of a project is also a reason why a home owner may be contacting you for an estimate. Just because someone calls you for an estimate - doesn't mean they're serious about the work. I know there are times where one spouse may want a wooden deck and the other wants a patio. Sometimes a patio is more money than a deck. So the mister may say "i'm telling you a patio is twice as much money than a deck, if you don't believe me lets get some estimates for a patio so you can see for yourself".

Are there warning signs that there may be a spouse not in favor of the project? It seems to me that it's instances where the new structure is not absolutely needed where we have the most experience with one spouse not wanting it. Years ago we had a couple with a nice, big deck. They had us build a small patio at the bottom, tieing in the deck with the basement walkout. She wanted it, he clearly did not. And he made it his mission to make my life miserable the whole time we were there.

We also did a large paver patio off a corner of an existing pool. She clearly wanted the patio, it was her that initially contacted me. He wanted to do the patio himself, having never built a patio before in his life! Because he was hell bent on doing the project himself, and because she knew there was no way he could do it, she contacted me for an estimate and they contracted with us - he wasn't the most pleasant individual to work with.

It's my opinion thats it's the jobs where there is no deck or there is no patio existing. This scenerio instills a positive mindset for all parties involved because they WANT to be able to sit outside and relax.

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STL Ponds and Waterfalls

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
St.louis MO
It's a total lose situation. If the couple can't come to terms I'll usually walk. The last job I did that the couple were not communicating it ended up hitting me hard.
 

GreenI.A.

LawnSite Silver Member
Location
North East
Years ago i had one that I went to court over. I had met with the husband and wife a number of times and discussed the project with them both, but the decissions were always made by the husband. The husband was asay while we were working on the install. the wife cameout and asked to make soome changes and she signed the work order for the changes the next day. He refused to pay for the changes and we went to court. Turns out they were not married, they were dating and he was the sole property owner. The judge ruled he was not responsible for the charges as he did not sign for it. The judge advised me to add a line to my contracts/work order changes that state that the signer agrees they are authorized to make te changes. He said that had I had that then the girlfriend would have been stuck with the bill instead of me.

I use that now on all contracts to protect myself in the event that a husband and wife disagree. Atleast I know that their disagreement wont keep be from getting paid in the end
 
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DVS Hardscaper

DVS Hardscaper

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
County Jail
Years ago i had one that I went to court over. I had met with the husband and wife a number of times and discussed the project with them both, but the decissions were always made by the husband. The husband was asay while we were working on the install. the wife cameout and asked to make soome changes and she signed the work order for the changes the next day. He refused to pay for the changes and we went to court. Turns out they were not married, they were dating and he was the sole property owner. The judge ruled he was not responsible for the charges as he did not sign for it. The judge advised me to add a line to my contracts/work order changes that state that the signer agrees they are authorized to make te changes. He said that had I had that then the girlfriend would have been stuck with the bill instead of me.

I use that now on all contracts to protect myself in the event that a husband and wife disagree. Atleast I know that their disagreement wont keep be from getting paid in the end

Well sorta. The best way to protect yourself is you list the contract in the names listed on the property deed.

In MD, the state has a website that list every single square inch of soil in MD and it lists who it's deeded to.

In VA, its done county to county.

So when I write a contract I pull up the property on the Real Data website and I obtain the owner's name(s) from there.

See, if the property is deeded to Mary Smith and Frank Smith, then thats how my contracted is listed as the client. What can happen is if a property is deeded to more than one name, and you write a contract - but you only list the contract to one name and not all the names on the deed, and that person who signed the contract decides not to pay you - you're gonna have a harder time mutting a lien on the property. But if both parties listed on the deed sign your contract - you're going to have more legal power. But a lien doesn't mean squat now-a-days because the house is often times mortgaged for more than it's worth.

Also, it's good to pull your client's Real Property Data records when you're dealing with foreigners. See, Putel Patel will tell you his name is 'Paul'. As thats the unofficial American name he gave himself, all his friends call him Paul. But it's not his legal name. So you can't used that for the contract. Therefore by pulling the property records you get his full legal name.



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JoeyDipetro

LawnSite Member
Location
CA
DVS, sounds like you are on the ball with regard to the legal end of this business. Were you an attorney prior to being a hardscaper? Or, are you speaking from the experience of being taken to court or taking people to court?
 
OP
DVS Hardscaper

DVS Hardscaper

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
County Jail
DVS, sounds like you are on the ball with regard to the legal end of this business. Were you an attorney prior to being a hardscaper? Or, are you speaking from the experience of being taken to court or taking people to court?
I've been in business for almost 22 years. You learn from experience. You learn from experience's of others. You learn from reading. You learn from asking questions. You learn from talking to people in the know, such as clients that are attorneys, county clerks, etc. you learn from personal (non business related) experiences. You learn from your personal friend's experiences.

It's winter time. Contractors are busy going to seminars. One of the best seminars a serious contractor can attend is a legal seminar. Go to your local county court house for a day and sit in the court room and listen to the small claims cases. When the judge states his/her ruling, thy usually explain why. Priceless information for a contractor.

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