When do handshake contracts not work?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by The Cowboy, Nov 8, 2005.

  1. The Cowboy

    The Cowboy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 617

    I have been told that east of the Mississippi a contract must be on paper to work in court. Theoretically, west of the River a man's word is evidence enough. I have never made a customer sign any contract for lawn mowing before; I usually give a price and outline the details of a job, shake on it, and do it. I have only had one customer back down in mid season and use another landscaper, and that only after paying me my dues. Has anyone else done business this way. How did your business work out? Have you ever had to file in small claims court with only a handshake deal as evidence?
  2. jt5019

    jt5019 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,432

    Im 50/50 with handshakes vs written contracts.Most of my residential customers are just handshakes and its never been a problem.My commercial accounts i feel its a good idea to have a written contract.Also if they seem like they are going to be a pain or you just get that feeling it doesnt hurt to have it in writing. But for the most part handshakes work just fine for me.
  3. daveintoledo

    daveintoledo LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,587

    i think they are very important, it scares some residential customers, i have a estimate sheet i use for them that doubles as a contract when they sign...

    protects you both..
  4. Team Gopher

    Team Gopher LawnSite Platinum Member
    from -
    Messages: 4,040

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    Hi The Cowboy,

    The more of a relationship you have with people potentially the easier it is to shake on it. Plus if you have a customer who is that upset they are willing to go to court over something, you might be better of just letting them go. Contract or no contract.

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  5. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Messages: 1,009

    Go to your local bank and ask for a business loan.When they ask to see your records for past and present work,tell them you have multiple handshake contracts.
    Next,when a customer tells you that specifically included "whatever" into the price and you say you didn't,hand them the handshake contract for their review.
  6. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,112

    Exactly handshake contracts don't work the minute a customer decides to add something or change their mind or terminate you without notice or blame you for damages that you were not responsible for causing.

    TJLANDS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,668

    If you are to take your Landscaping-Lawncare co. seriously there is no such thing as a handshake contract. No matter how well you know someone when push comes to shove you will be up the creek without a paddle. Liability issues, tax issues billing issues etc.
  8. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    I use a contract for all season long customers, but for one time customers where the service is $250 or cheaper, I do not make them sign anything. But anything greater than $250, yes I make them sign
  9. dvmcmrhp52

    dvmcmrhp52 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Pa.
    Messages: 4,205

    Don't use contracts, don't need them, don't want them.

    Don't need to chase after money either.
  10. Green-Pro

    Green-Pro LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,420

    Contracts for residential customers are not a good selling point around here, commercial yes, residential no. I have had to take one sob to court and won hands down.

    P.S. I would suggest strongly, taking a business law course (night class) at a local college or J.C. I think you can gain tremendous insight to the law and how it relates to conducting business. I suggest night class because colleges frequently use adjunct faculty, that is some one with their masters that actually practices business law, to teach. This person, if a good instructor, will go a step farther and try to enlighten you if laws discussed are valid in your state or not.

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