Creating a contract is a vital part of a successful landscape project.
As the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) said in one of its presentations on contracts, “You get what you negotiate — not necessarily what you deserve.” So make sure to put everything in writing. It helps protect both you and the client.
To help you create a contract for your landscape projects, hire an attorney to make sure everything’s covered and you and the client are protected. Each state has different requirements, so they can help you with that, too.
While we are just software pros — not attorneys — here’s some advice on five things you should include in your landscaping contracts.
1. Identification of Two Parties
You need to clearly state who’s involved with and responsible for the project.
This section should come at the beginning and include the date, client’s name and the name of your business.
Be sure to include both your business and client’s addresses, as well.
2. Services Being Offered
Landscaping contracts should include a detailed description of the project and what exactly you will be doing.
Put in writing the basic services that will be performed and also additional ones, those that will be provided for an added cost if desired.
Write out the materials needed and stages in which the features will be installed.
You should also state what is not included in the contract so clients don’t have unrealistic expectations.
If you have licenses, certifications, permits, insurance or other registrations that authorize you to handle this type of project, include that with the contract, as well. This will prevent you from misrepresenting or concealing facts, which can pose legal issues.
If you need to change something later on, add it as a revision to the contract and have the client sign the change order.
3. What It Will Cost
Something all landscaping contracts need to have is how much you’ll be compensated and what type of payment plan the client will follow.
Payments need to be tied to work completed. Make sure it is unambiguous, as payment amounts and schedules often cause the most customer issues.
Having a timely payment plan in place not only keeps you in the black, but it can also help customers better manage their budgets. Make sure clients understand your invoicing and collection procedures.
The contract should state how the client can pay (checks, credit cards or cash) and the payment policy. If there will be transaction fees for credit card payments, that information should also be included.
4. Project Deadlines
Another important element of a sound landscaping contract is a statement on the timeframe for performing the work.
So put an estimated start and end date.
Within this section, add a force majeure condition, which means neither party is responsible for delays or issues caused by acts of God or other uncontrollable events.
Also, add a method to modify the time constraints in place within the contract.
That will allow you to alter the deadline if the client wants to make changes or have you install additional features.
5. Problem Preventer
While you hope everything goes smoothly, you need to think ahead to avoid issues.
To be proactive, here are examples of things you could include in this section:
- A change order is needed if the project goes beyond the original scope of services.
- The landscaper retains ownership of any drawings or designs until the services have been paid in full.
- The landscaper will pay a penalty of X dollars every day the project is late, past an X-day grace period.
You can also include a statement saying you are not responsible for the project if the client breaks any part of the contract.
If you are going to offer them warranties, you can include those with this information, as well.
Finalize Your Landscaping Contracts
Contracts are designed to protect you and your clients, so make sure you both understand and agree with everything in them.
Nothing should be implied or left open for interpretation.
The landscaping contract needs to be direct with specific dates, numbers and information.
It’s important to consult a lawyer to make sure your contract is legally binding and follows state regulations.
They can also help you if the client breaches the contract or if issues arise.
Remember, you get what you negotiate, so make sure you put it in writing in your landscaping contract.