Watch out for goofy lawn care contracts.

Anyone can create a lawn care contract. All they need to do is put pen to paper and write whatever it is floating around in their head. Then when they ask you to sign it, no matter how goofy it is, you are agreeing to it. So think before you sign any contract. What may seem at first glance to be a great property to service that is going to bring you in a lot of money, can take a dark turn when a bad lawn care contract is presented to you to sign. Things can go from great to rotten in a matter of minutes.

Let’s take a look at such a situation that caused a lawn care business owner on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum to take a step back and think twice about this before taking the job.

He wrote “I have a large project to bid on with six properties in my area, the property manager sent me a lawn care maintenance contract and some of the language used seems a little off to me I could be wrong? Here is what he wants me to sign.

Landscape Maintenance Agreement

______________________agrees to provide the services necessary to achieve and maintain high quality care and “curb appeal” as described below, for the landscaping of the six facilities owned by _____.

In exchange for these services, _____ agrees to pay a maximum of _________per month plus tax. This is an annually reviewed “at will” contract which may be ended by either party with 30 days notice.

• This service includes all treatments such as fertilizing, weed killers and other landscape chemicals.
• All sites will be mowed, edged, Weed whacked and reseeded as needed
• Curb appeal as defined by ______ will be improved and maintained at all sites
• All plant beds will be weeded cleaned and raked as needed
• All sidewalks and driveways will be kept free of debris as needed
• All building roofs and asphalt areas will be cleaned of moss and maintained as needed using moss killer and pressure washer.
• All branches will be trimmed and kept off security fences, buildings and driveways as needed
• All shrubbery, bushes plants and small trees will be pruned as needed with dead plants being removed and disposed of
• All gutters will be kept clean and free of debris at all times
• Leaves will be gathered and removed and flowers will be watered as needed
• All landscape debris will be removed and disposed of by contractor daily.
• Light snow removal and application of de-icer will be done as required
• Bark and gravel will be supplied and applied at $25 per yard at the request of the main office of ____
• Contractor will provide a weekly work order form for the site manager to sign off on in order to ensure that the work is being completed as agreed
• Contractor agrees to a weekly schedule at each site rain or shine informing management of any schedule changes

________________________ ________________________

Does this seem to be a normal contract? How will I remove and dispose of debris daily? Should I amend the contract?”

One lawn care business owner said “having spent over 14 years in commercial banking, and a knowledge of what we do in the lawn care industry, I personally have some concerns with the contract as you posted it. I am not a lawyer but have had the final say on hundreds of contracts. Let’s take your contract piece by piece and analyze it.

  • pay a maximum of _________per month plus tax.

The word Maximum is not a defined term in the context of the agreement, as such I would suggest it be removed and the property manager pay a set price per month.

  • high quality care and “curb appeal”

Well this is pretty open, curb side appeal to me may not be curb side appeal to the customer, define it.

  • weed killers and other landscape chemicals.

Chemicals are not allowed in our city. I would have this changed to weed control. Who is responsible if you use a product in good faith and then it does damage, i.e. who is on the hook? You because you agreed or the owner because you were instructed to.

  • Curb appeal as defined by _____ will be improved and maintained at all sites

Where is it defined?

  • All sidewalks and driveways will be kept free of debris as needed

Who defines the need? Is it daily, every few days, as called etc.

I see all kinds of warning signals and an agreement that was written by an amature with probably good intentions but you are leaving yourself wide open.

Write a contract that defines what you will do and what you will do for each service and how often, this one is not clear at all.”
It seems like this company has probably been burnt in the past and have hacked together this contract to try and remedy the situation. I think that is why you see it’s ‘at will’. They want to be able to get out of it if they are not happy. Why not just say look, here is what I think your property needs, here is the monthly price and let’s go from there.

Are you getting a weird vibe from them already for other things besides the contract? Have you asked them if they have had any problems with previous lawn care businesses and if so, what were the problems. The more you know, the better you could fix the situation.

He responded and said “basically I wrote the property manager back with a new contract. I actually used one of the lawn care contract templates from the Gopher Forum. I put my company name in and told him that I felt we needed to write up a new lawn care contract that was more quantifiable for the ‘as needed’ parts. I am hoping he just has been burned in the past or doesn’t really have a clue and my new contract will clarify things for the both of us.”

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