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Wording for "plant" warranty?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Ramairfreak98ss, Aug 23, 2007.

  1. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    In the past three years, ive offered a "basic" warranty for my plants and trees that are installed in new landscapes. I had originally offered a 1year from the install date on plants to ensure they are in good and healthy condition.

    In most landscapes where say 40-200 plants are installed, i get a few that die out immediately or don't take for one reason or another.

    I've even had several customers offer to pay for the plants if i were to come back in re-install a new one which was great.

    Both of my local suppliers only offer a 30 or 60 day warranties on plants, shrubs and trees, but it really only covers disease and so forth.

    Drought, over/under watering, neglect, soil conditions etc. have never yet been covered under any of their "warranties". So I have eaten the cost of the new plants.

    I have one customer that has severe problems from a landscape done September 2006, the entire back area behind his patio in the country is clay, not clay 6" deep, it was clay as far down as you can dig.

    All plants were installed with extra large and deep holes excavated, tons of clay removed off site and tons of fine screened top soil and sand were installed.

    The entire garden is getting rancid at the bottom of most trees root balls, standing water has been a major problem for months. I had replaced several trees and shrubs in the spring and things continue to keep dying.

    For other companies who specialize in landscape design and installation, how are your terms written for your contracts?

    This particular customer is now on month 11 of having this landscape installed, and he has now sent me his 9th list of more trees he states are dead, dying or need replacement.

    He had an irrigation system installed in May of this year, and possibly with all the clay, is keeping the whole garden way too wet.

    I'd never want to shaft a customer in any way, but i feel i am legally obligated to "cover" what is stated in my contract for jobs if it states a 1yr warranty on all plants installed. To my own mistake of not having the fine terms underneath to weed out problematic situations as such, i soon will be loosing money on a job that was $19,000 in 2006:hammerhead: :confused:
  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Plants: All perennial plants and shrubs are warrantied for 5 years from the date of installation provided the owner takes proper care of the plants, including, but not limited to, providing water, fertilizer and insect and disease control. If certain plants are not to be covered by warranty they are identified as such on the project’s plant list or in section One of this Agreement. Plants replaced under warranty will be the same size they were when they were installed.

    That's how the plant warranty section of our contract reads. But it's still fairly vague. Our warranty doesn't say how many times we'll replace a plant nor does it say how soon we'll replace it. But it's as clear as I want it to be. This way it's up to my discression, really. I can go and tell them, "Sorry. You didn't water this one enough and that's why it died. If you check the terms of the contract, you'll see that improper care and lack of watering voids your warranty." I could void there warranty for many reasons, based on the wording above. But most of the time, as long as they were good customers and are being nice about the matter, I'll usually just replace the plant the first time no questions asked - even if it was their fault. If they didn't water enough I will usually tell them something like, "Well, this hydrangea died from lack of water. They need more water in this kind of heat than these other hardy evergreens do. Anyway, I'll warranty it this time. But please be sure to water it more regularly."

    I've never been called back to replace a plant more than once before. And most of our installs, we're also installing an irrigation system as well. So the watering issue really falls on me most of the time anyway. If a plant dies due to lack of water, it's our fault, really. We installed the system. We programmed it. And as long as they haven't messed with the settings then it's our fault.

    Anyway, we don't have to warranty very many plants. Maybe one or two out of every 5 large installs we do. And with the prices we charge, I am happy to come back and replace dead plants if needed. :)
  3. leaflandscape

    leaflandscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    Hey JIm, just a question. How can you offer a five year guarantee on plants? The nurseries we deal with give us wholesale prices on all plant stock, and we charge retail. I do understand giving a one year guarantee, but over five years the customer's sure to lose several plants, and there's the potential that some of those plants will be large trees with large price tags. How can you be reasonably sure a five year warranty's worth it for you?
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    The answer to that question is something I don't discuss publicly. But suffice it to say, we're doing very well with that policy.

    Anyway, the duration of the warranty isn't what this thread was about. It was about wording of a contract. Substitute 5 years with 1 year or 6 months or whatever fits your game plan.
  5. Isobel

    Isobel LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 548

    I have a question, did the trees and shrubs start dying after the irrigation system went in, and did you have any say as to how much water the plants get?
    what I'm getting at here is that if the irrigation system is to blame--too much water being delivered--and you weren't consulted, I would say you aren't responsible.

    In our warranty terms, we say that the client is responsible for watering the plant material, and we cannot be held responsible for mistakes due to watering.

    In addition, our warranty is for one free replacement, not several throughout one year.
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I like the vagueness of the waranty in the above post. I would not waranty anything planted in that much clay. Its like a giant ceramic pot without drainage that will rot plants even with carefully controlled watering. We have gone 1 day in the last 10 without rain. 9" at least. (Root rot!)
    Dig the the transplant hole fill with course gravel and some compost at least a foot below the root ball and tell the guy its worth a try. Don't do the entire area at once. See if the simple trees/shrubs survive and go from there.
    I always let someone else take the risk for impatient clients.
    Bottom line: No waranty in certain situations. This is one. Good luck I hope the client realizes there are some things that you cannot be responsible for.
  7. EagleLandscape

    EagleLandscape LawnSite Platinum Member
    Male, from Garland, Texas
    Messages: 4,350

    All plant material is guaranteed for one year except under the following circumstances: plant death due to drought, under/over-watering, wind burn, freezing/frost, wildlife damage, insect infestation, owner neglect, and / or Acts of God.
  8. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    Thats not bad jim... im talking about 2-3 plants every other month and all next to each other, mostly all over watering...

    Having a good customer vs a bad one is key here.. Like you, ive never had an issue with this "vague" warranty of mine. Ive replaced a couple things here and there, some customers even go and pay for the new plant, and i install it for free since it was probably their fault anyway.. a 5yr warranty is a lot, ive not seen that around the jersey area before.. even the nurseries i deal with are 90 days or 6 months tops, the big companies seem to be 90 days or shorter :/
  9. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    A couple didnt make it through the winter.. i replaced them. All after that were due 100% to severe over watering and from the new irrigation. Im not saying its installed incorrectly, but the amount its on is probably by far overkill. Ive been consulted several times by the client as to the dying trees and its known for months that its the over watering issue. Now he is trying to say that because of the height they were installed makes them die because of the water.?

    Is your one free replacement, one plant or one of each thing installed? I have shrubs or trees that the 2nd one has now died too and of course the customer thinks im giving him bum trees. At the opposite of that, im planting them at an elevated level with a ton of sand underneath to aerate the soil better than previously and still there is a foot of water in this hole that was dug out per plant :/
  10. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    Actually, with this landscape job, somehow i either deleted the section of plant warranty or something, but i cannot find it in the 5 page detailed receipt for this landscape job last year... lucky for me if the guy presses the issue. I did verbally tell him the plants have a 1yr warranty, but of course like i said, is very vague, and I will not be replacing things twice all due to over watering.

    Ive had several Green giant Arborvitaes die
    3 Alberta spruce cone shape 5' tall
    5 Rhododendrons
    5 5g Hydrangeas replaced and not doing well
    various 3-5g plants, all totaling almost 2k in supplies.

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