A contract defines the relationship between you, the landscape contractor, and your customer. Ninety percent of the time it acts as a guide that ensures a good relationship. The other 10% of the time it becomes “the law” that arbitrates disputes. Disagreements are usually about money—money owed for services promised or to satisfy some liability. Your contract at a minimum must address both services and liabilities clearly.
Provide detail on price, deliverables, schedule and payment terms. The easiest way not to get paid is to be generic about what is included and what is not included in your contract. Provide details on quantities, types and extent of service level (42 visits to mow 10,000 square feet to a height of 1.5 inches per cut) as well as payment terms and remediation for non-payment.
Provide detail on responsibility for damage, warranty terms, permitting, compliance with State/Federal statutes, personal injury, and non-performance by you or the customer. The easiest way to get sued or not get paid is to be vague about those things for which you are responsible and those things for which the customer is responsible (are you responsible for Water District restrictions that lead to plant death?). Be certain to provide details about your insurance and a list of covered/non-covered events, as well as a method for arbitrating and remediating these events.
Where’s the best place to get advice on your contract? You can hire a lawyer, but most do not understand the industry. Your best bet is to talk with other landscape companies about what services they use. You can find these people in industry peer groups and national, state and local trade associations.
Most will be happy to share information with you. Everyone has had a nightmare customer and discovered that a “loose” contract offered little protection. Learn from your peers who have learned the hard way.