Landscaping contracts -- based on project size?

Hotty Toddy

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Little Rock
Most of my landscaping projects are in the $5K range. They usually entail meeting with the client, talking through a design concept with them (no drawings), ripping out the old landscape plants, installing the new plants, finishing with pre-E and mulch. Occasionally I have broken a sprinkler system line which I just fix myself. I send a detailed estimate to the client. If they agree with the estimate, I proceed with the work. I do not write contracts or these.

I have two scenarios I'd like feedback on --

#1. I have an existing landscape maintenance client for whom I have planted various shrubs and flowering annuals over the past couple of years. I'm about to do a project for her that is more than I have done for her -- around $25K. I'd prefer to not throw out a contract to her since I've never used one with her. We have a good relationship. I would rather detail the scope of what I will be doing in an email, ask if she has any questions, and ask that she reply back in an email giving me the OK to proceed.

#2. I will be hopefully be doing a landscape design and install this fall for a new home. Landscape budget is $60K for this project. It hasn't been clarified if I will be working for the homeowner directly or if I will be paid by the builder. I am hoping for the former. I've done several landscape projects in this neighborhood as described in #1 above. Having never worked for this homeowner or builder, I think that I should probably write up a contract for this project.

What are your thoughts? Should I be thinking about these scenarios differently? Assuming no previous relationship with a potential client, is there a project size above which you usually do contracts for (and not for under that)?
 

knoxJRM

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Knoxville
@Hotty Toddy
I think you are right on. Someone you have a relationship with is definitely a different animal than an unknown. Especially with that scope of a project. If you feel better about it maybe tell the customer you have the relationship with that you require contracts on projects above 15k or some number you choose.
I do not use contracts for installs either. 80% of my installs are for existing maintenance customers. Can’t wait for a 60k job! My biggest so far is 21k at once. I seem to always land in the 5-15k range.
 

GroundWorx

LawnSite Member
Location
Toronto Kansas
I agree with knoxJRM on one point - "... tell the customer you have the relationship with that you require contracts on projects above 15k or some number you choose."
Even those with the best of intentions and relations can mess you up if they come into unexpected bad times over money. What happens if this person suddenly chooses to NOT pay - for whatever reason... You will have a hard time recovering your losses without a contract.
 

Gus McGee

LawnSite Senior Member
Whether or not you should use a contract boils down to your risk tolerance. Contracts don't guarantee payment, but they do make it much easier to prove a case if it ends up in court. It is rare, but I have been burned by good customers in the past when their circumstances changed (such as they unexpectedly lost their job).

When dealing with decent sized projects it is best to reduce your odds of not getting paid, which comes by using a contract and also getting some money up front and in installments over the course of the project. Also, contracts reduce any potential for he said, she said nonsense. You put in clear terms what will and will not be done, so people can't argue about what they thought or hoped you might do or try to find ways to wiggle out of paying.

Anytime big money is on the line you need to cover your back, unless you don't mind losing big money.

Also, there are a lot of unscrupulous builders. Don't do anything for builders on good faith verbal agreements. You definitely will lose money.
 
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davis2dsh

LawnSite Member
Location
Cincinnati
Most of my landscaping projects are in the $5K range. They usually entail meeting with the client, talking through a design concept with them (no drawings), ripping out the old landscape plants, installing the new plants, finishing with pre-E and mulch. Occasionally I have broken a sprinkler system line which I just fix myself. I send a detailed estimate to the client. If they agree with the estimate, I proceed with the work. I do not write contracts or these.

I have two scenarios I'd like feedback on --

#1. I have an existing landscape maintenance client for whom I have planted various shrubs and flowering annuals over the past couple of years. I'm about to do a project for her that is more than I have done for her -- around $25K. I'd prefer to not throw out a contract to her since I've never used one with her. We have a good relationship. I would rather detail the scope of what I will be doing in an email, ask if she has any questions, and ask that she reply back in an email giving me the OK to proceed.

#2. I will be hopefully be doing a landscape design and install this fall for a new home. Landscape budget is $60K for this project. It hasn't been clarified if I will be working for the homeowner directly or if I will be paid by the builder. I am hoping for the former. I've done several landscape projects in this neighborhood as described in #1 above. Having never worked for this homeowner or builder, I think that I should probably write up a contract for this project.

What are your thoughts? Should I be thinking about these scenarios differently? Assuming no previous relationship with a potential client, is there a project size above which you usually do contracts for (and not for under that)?
Hey man, from my experience I would outline your quote and let them know how and why you expect to complete the work and install based on the quote. Have change orders handy because they will add or move things around on you as you proceed. I am doing a large project and have gone over budget and am invoicing to get payment this weekend before I proceed any further as they have changed the job and scope of work on me. Just be careful and make sure they are willing to pay for what they want!!
 

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