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This article is for lawn service providers. It covers the most basic clauses that any service contract should consider important. As simple as your service might be, having a written contract is a must.
That is, define the kind of services you intend to provide–anything from cutting grass, to weed care, to cleanup. Look here for the kinds of services available. You want to be clear what your service provides to the client. Does the client think you’re mulching, bagging or raking? You want to be super clear about that.
Don’t forget to identify the location of all areas needing service. Again, if the client doesn’t want a certain area touched, ask them to make it crystal clear. In the downloadable file, a simple tabular format has been provided below for your convenience. Laying out the desired functions in this manner makes the task concise and clear.
P.S. If access requires a gate-code or separate key, figure out how the client is going to arrange for access.
Define what services may be needed occasionally, and agree to price those on an as-needed basis. For example, if the customer wants something extra, it’s on them to tell you. One way to avoid any confusion is by setting out a notice requirement–if something needs immediate attention, you can call the client or leave notice/letter agreeing to come back the next day to take care of the issue. If something needs to be taken care of immediately, a phone call may prove to be more useful, especially where huge costs are involved. Another way of drafting this is by stating that any additional work under $50 is ok, but anything over $50 requires written consent.
A service is expected to provide regular maintenance services. However, defining what “regular” means may be tricky. See example.
What’s the difference? How much care is really needed? Naturally, a commercial contract may have the service cover a larger property and with more frequency. The services are almost identical with the option of customizing it to suit a client’s property.
You can price your services in many different ways. One way is to price it per cut. This could be could be weekly, bi-weekly, or on an as-needed basis. You could also have an annual 12-month contract. Just remember that if the contract is automatically renewed, the client may want written confirmation. Be sure to note your cancellation policy.
Should notice be required? Clients probably want at least 30 days’ notice before contract renewal. That way, if they need to make other arrangements, they have a 30-day window.
What about invoices? Even though your client has already agreed to a price, there is no harm in having an invoice sent out every month. By doing this, you let the client know that they have up to ten days on receipt of invoice to make their payment, after which, a penalty applies. This could be anywhere between 1-5% interest on the total amount due.
How is payment made? Check versus Cash versus Credit Card. First decide how you want payments to be made. Next, think about where it needs to be sent. Do you want to pick up payments at the end of the month? Depending on the nature, type, and frequency of services, this may vary.
Auto Billing: If this is something the client wants and you provide, be sure to guide the client through your policy. The policy could include some form of discount for automating the process. You also want to describe the procedure a client needs to follow if they dispute an invoice that was auto billed.
How is payment to be returned if you mistakenly charge a client? This could be for a month where instead of four trips to a client’s home, you only made three. Perhaps you decide to add a credit for the next month or you invoice pro rate their bill.
Failure to pay: A failure to pay could result in an automatic late payment fee or the right to terminate your agreement. See no.6 here.
Find sample here.
Have your contract describe the frequency of service requirements. That is, is it weekly/bi-weekly/etc.? Next, if the client would like you to come a certain day or time every week, find out when that actually is. God forbid you piss them off on a Sunday morning!
Pets: Who picks up pet-droppings? Will pets be out of the way? From an owner’s perspective, they probably want to keep their pets out of harm’s way. If pets attack your employees, there could be unintended legal and medical expenses.
Out of town/cancellation–same price or pro rata? This is especially important when auto-pay has been set up. Services could be assessed pro rata in such a situation.
Irrigation/Water Usage: Clients may have you assist them in programming their irrigation system for proper lawn maintenance. Think about how this will be charged: per hour?
Does the client care how much water you use? If yes, ask the client to inform you of their usage requirements, but remind them that it is your duty to keep the surroundings healthy.
Trash Pick Up: First, think about whether you will take charge of cleaning up. If yes, define what needs to be cleaned up. In states where snow or rain is a big problem there could be additional clean-up services.
What happens if the trash can is full? Are you responsible for hauling away excess trash? From a courtesy standpoint, you probably will help. Either way, think about putting it here.
Unexpected storm/rain cleanup: First think about how this will be priced. Do you need notice before cleanup (of course, you probably felt the storm/rain as well but you might have 20 customers needing immediate attention)?
You could draft this to say, “Service will call customer to schedule cleanup within 24 hours of unexpected storm/rain.”
Also, if you are scheduled to work at a client’s home but there has been incessant rain, there could be a clause using language such as, “Excessive rain or storm may delay normal service day by 24-36 hours.”
Pesticides/fertilizers: Pesticides and fertilizers bring their own set of challenges. Questions to consider include: Who pays for fertilizers/pesticides? Will the homeowner supply their own pesticides/fertilizers? How do you warn people about pesticides or fertilizers that were recently sprayed? (Minus the obvious nasty smell!) One way is to have signs, but make sure you decide who is responsible for putting them up and removing them.
Damages to client’s property: For example, sprinkler heads, plants, hoses, broken windows from thrown rocks, children’s toys.
If YOU are responsible for the damage, YOU may have to pay. Little miscommunications now will result in a lost client later.
How do I draft this? Have a time requirement built in–so long as the customer reports damage within 72 hours, service will replace or pay for damages or injuries.
The service will not take responsibility for any personal items, children’s toys, or anything that was carelessly left by the client outside. One way to deal with this is by including a “pick up” aspect to the services. The service may be asked to survey the property for any personal items before starting service. If personal items are discovered, they should be left in a (designated) area.
Also, a client may consider looking at your insurance coverage for damaged property. Chat with your insurance provider to assess the extent of damage covered under your policy.
Damage to personal equipment or staff: Have worker’s compensation coverage for any injuries your employees might suffer on the job. Your general insurance coverage should cover all aspects of property or bodily injury including injuries sustained while driving (auto coverage). Again, chat with your insurance provider to go over these aspects.
Missed Service: If service cannot be provided on a certain day, a customer will want notice. Include a three-day notice requirement for any missed or cancelled service mostly to mitigate any customer dissatisfaction. Any missed or cancelled service should not be billed unless your policy states otherwise. You might draft this to say something like, “If customer cancels service, they will not be refunded for any amount already paid.” Finally, always HAVE proper licenses and permits. A customer might consult the local better business bureau (BBB) to confirm if any complaints have been registered against you. Stay ahead, look for reviews and take remedial action where necessary.
Consider reserving the right for either party to terminate the agreement just because. You could carve out a separate penalty for cancellation, but it may be in your best interests to have the freedom to stop service when you want to. Granted, that right should also be extended to the client. It’s probably best to have a 30-day written notice period for termination.
Example: In the event of early termination of this Agreement, Client agrees to remit payment of any balances due on previously performed services. Any expenses or losses related to damaged property shall be payable immediately.
For sample corporate agreements: See here and here.
DISCLAIMER: This article is just friendly advice and only reflects the personal views of a few ‘ordinary’ people. It may not be the kind of advice that you agree with, nor prove to be helpful for your situation. This article is not a substitute for legal advice from an attorney in your own state. By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the author. We encourage comments and viewpoints but try to be nice! Consult state laws and attorney.