Who charges what for lawn contract cancellations?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Ramairfreak98ss, Jul 20, 2006.

  1. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    My method i feel is subpar, i offer a contract price x the cuts. $40 per cut by say 30 cuts over a season.

    Theyre default rate however is say $46 per cut if they default. This ends up hurting them terribly at the end of the contract but makes it way too easy for them to cancel after the 2nd lawn cut.

    Recently ive had a few customers start my service mid season, i end up trying to manage lots of grass and edging the sidewalks with 3yrs worth of growth. Then the "old" women call up complaining they want it bagged because of all the grass now, then the argue and say they dont want the service then. Sorry lady my contracts are clear as day. She states shell send me the $60, or $30 per cut in her case plus tax, which she also hasnt figured in the nj 7% sales tax now. Of course her default cut rate is only $35. So i only get $10 for all the extra work up front on this crap property now and shell im sure have someone else cut it that has it all "prepped" now. I think im going to add something like a $75 cancellation fee.
  2. dkeisala

    dkeisala LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 911

    I don't use cancellation fees. Most my contracts are annual and levelized throughout the year. Mid-contract cancellations are simply pro-rated to make sure they got all they paid for and we received payment for all services rendered.

    If you are taking on overgrown lawns and fear the client is going to cancel on you after you finally get it under control then maybe you should start charging more up front to recoup your costs now rather than trying to recoup your costs over time. Start charging a prep fee, tell the client the first mow/edge will cost more, whatever is, get your money today rather than hoping you'll get it tomorrow. If they don't like it, too bad, let someone else do it.

    Instead of charging a $75 cancellation fee, you could charge this as your prep fee and then each mow is x dollars. You're making your money as you're providing the services and if they want to cancel after however many weeks, fine. You walk away not being in the hole, don't have to worry about attempting to squeeze a cancellation fee out of someone and you're on to the next account.
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    I totally agree. You shouldn't be taking on jobs that have all this up-front clean-up work without charging for it. Don't get me wrong. I understand why you do it. I was the same way for years and years. I always wanted to grow and get more accounts so badly that I would just throw in stuff like this, figuring that the long-term money from the ongoing maintenance would offset the initial "clean-up" work I would have to do the first time out. But eventually I realized that's really a bad practice. Nowadays I never take on a maintenance account unless it's already looking in primo condition. If it's anything less, we charge a one-time initial clean-up fee and then we start maintenance. This is what you need to start doing.

    As for cancellation fees, I don't charge any. I do ask that people finish out the month with me. But that's it. No cancellation fees. There's so much business around here that I can replace them very quickly with a better customer.

    REALSLOW LawnSite Senior Member
    from FLORIDA
    Messages: 668

    I totally agree the people who want something for nothing are the problem accounts anyway that turn out to be a dead end. If they will not pay for a cleanup you will have problems down the road trying to get them to pay.

    If they will not work with you on your terms you have a turkey so run and don't look back!
  5. SimonCX

    SimonCX LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 731

    I usually never edge everything the first time if it's a new customer. I tell them up front I'll do it in parts, if it has'nt been edged in a long time sometimes it takes me a month or two to get it completly done or I charge them if they want it done all at once. I got sick of that crap when they drop you after the 1st or 2nd cut when the edging is done and looks nice. The only time I'll edge everything for a new customer the 1st time is when it was edged before. Charge her for the extra time you put in to get the edging done.
  6. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    Thanks, ill have to just quote out prices up front for the prep work. I dont like to try and sneak things in on people for cancel fees etc, but dont want to be wasting time and loosing money either. I hate when an overgrown sidewalk can take 30 mintues to "prep" or fix up for the normal service, plus having to pickup all the pieces left behind. I guess i try to stive to satisfy every customer too much, some i know are a dead end, but some are on that fine line of paying their bill and being happy and thinking of canceling you because they cant afford the service.
  7. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    As a solution to your surcharge issue, why don't you make it a flat fee of say $20 or so?
    That way it hurts them worse at first and less later (which is actually kinda fair if you think about it).

    Now I'd like to add something in addition to the extra-tall grass issues for which you have to charge extra :)...

    It is July and more than a few folks like to call around this time of year, oh of course they want all-season service or whatever...
    But you know why they cancel 2-3 cuts out?

    Hint: 104+ degree heat index
    Answer: Because they will pay someone to cut the grass in this miserable heat!

    Now they done did the grass cutting when it was nice and cool and soon as summer is half over, they will gladly take over again...
    But they didn't want you to know that, they just need you for the worst part, hey thanks!! :waving:

    Here's my attitude: You want the regular price, then you need to hire me year-round starting in spring!
    You call me when it's 104+ outside (even June when the temps hit 90+ is good enough), and I charge another 5-10 dollars for that.
    Even if it wasn't so hot, it's still about halfway over, 2-3 more months and grass cutting is done here...
  8. ProMo

    ProMo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,468

    On my contracts I have the monthly price and a per visit price wich is higher, If contract is cancelled they owe based on number of visits, If they break the contract they owe the rest of the year. I have a guy that found a cheaper service and gave me a 3 day notice. I billed him an extra 175 dollars and he didnt pay so I think I will try court for the rest of the contract close to 2k. The letter stating I did good work should help.
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    If you're thinking what I am thinking, then court would be worth your while. Specifically, I am thinking you take the whole slew to court all at the same time, that has been the only way I can figure that rigmarole to be worthwhile. The statute of limitations on money issues is generally a few years (here in va it's 3 years you have to press charges) so you got plenty of time to let it add up to something... Then you go downtown and file the paperwork for the whole bunch and while you're at it, ask the clerk if it is possible to try these cases on the same day as they are all related (but that may be a stupid question, I don't know).

    At least, that's the way land lords who own apartment complexes do it, they wait until they have about a dozen or so who didn't pay the rent, then they take the whole lot to court all in one day, next-next-next. I've seen it happen, the judges love it too because it's fast money for them (court cost, one after the other, all the same plaintiff, bam-bam-bam). At this point, even thou judgements are unanimous, I dare say your chances of getting judgements in your favor is better than by bringing in one lonely 40-dollar case (but feel free to throw that one in, too).

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