Should I go with a signed or verbal lawn care agreement?

There are a lot of new lawn care business owners just getting started this year due to many economic factors. Because they are new, they don’t know where they can get away with using a verbal agreement when providing lawn care services or when they need to use a signed agreement. I want to use these recent discussion as an example to help you expand your business knowledge base.

Dean wrote us and said “Here is my situation: I posted an ad on craigslist to perform lawn care for any realtors who have vacant homes that need lawn care. I was contacted by one wanting mowing, seeding, plugging, fertilizing and pine straw put out. This job was for two homes, both on the same street. I came up with a price for labor and got prices for material. I was then contacted and told I could go ahead with job. The problem is I had no address to send the bill to and had not met anyone in person. I called back and asked for an address for which I could send an invoice to and guy said the work was for someone else and he would get back to me with an address. I have not heard from him as of yet. I am looking at spending $400.00 out of my pocket for materials to do this work. I think there should be a meeting and signing of a contract to ensure I am covered in getting paid for this work. Without any meeting or something signed if whoever decides not to pay, I have no recourse in recouping my expenses. I need to know from all of you if I am right and should not do any work until there is something signed to cover me and the lawn care customer so everyone gets what they paid for. All suggestions are welcomed.”

Eli: “You are correct. I think you have plenty of reason to be concerned. I would not perform any work until you have laid eyes on the “lawn care customer” and, especially in this strange case, until you have a signed contract in hand. I think I would make sure the contract included specifically who is responsible for payment. Then I would make sure that the person signing the contract also prints his name (I would probably have a spot for him to “print” and another spot for him to “sign” rather than just having him sign and print his name below the signature.).

I think I would start out with drawing up the contract and then calling him to ask for a place to meet him or whoever is authorizing the work. Make it clear to him during your telephone conversation that no materials will be ordered and no work will be done until a contract is signed. Maybe even ask for some money upfront to purchase materials. This would help ensure they are willing to go through with the deal. I suspect someone is trying to pull a fast one on you. I would not lose a lot of sleep over the deal until you have met the customer and have that signed contract in hand.”

Victor: “We have had past problems with realtors and owners who are actively selling/managing foreclosure properties. We only do prepayments with signed agreements for these types of customers now. We either meet with them for signing or mail them an agreement. They can provide guaranteed full payment or a good faith deposit in cash, check or money order or via PayPal. Once payment and agreement is received/cleared then the work will start. And so it goes with ongoing service.

With renters, we asked that they provide their driver’s license # on an agreement in the event of defaulted payments.”

Chuck: “Be careful here. Like other have said above, meet the client & get a contract signed. I have had 2 or 3 instances where a new client called, requested an estimate, I called them back & they approved the estimate by phone & gave a billing address. I did the work & got stiffed. Prepaid cell phones & BS billing addresses. I can’t track anything at all, it sucks!”

These are great responses from people who are in the know. Don’t be so desperate to get your business started and do this kind of work only to find out when it’s completed that you can’t find the person to pay you. If you would like to join in on this discussion visit the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum here.

Here is the latest GopherHaul episode 31 in podcast format.

Here is the GopherHaul 31 video.

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