If you work in a trade and are completing work on people’s homes, then it is fundamental your terms and conditions comply with consumer rights laws. Furthermore, it is essential to ensure they are enforceable, so that you get paid for the works that have been completed and you don’t find yourself in a stressful legal dispute. If a customer sues you for loss or wants their money back, you have little chance of defending successfully without a well-written watertight set of terms.
Having clear, easy to understand terms and conditions not only protects your business but will reassure your customers that they can trade with you in confidence.
Be careful when accepting templated terms, they rarely mirror your business processes and if they don’t, they are as good as worthless. Just this morning I read a templated set of terms that were not fit for purpose and should trading standards be contacted they would have found themselves in all sorts of trouble.
Key things to consider
If your customer has entered into contract with you over the phone, via your website or in their homes then they get 14 days whereby they can change their mind. Your terms and conditions must state this legal right. Templates usually cover this part but fail to include what happens if the services are to begin during the first 14 days. You then get the right to charge for any works that has been completed before they cancel as long as they are reasonable.
Depending on the size of the job you perhaps may take a deposit, it may be that you invoice in monthly intervals or just invoice on completion. Whatever it is your terms must reflect what has been agreed. Templates may be less specific and refer to the quotation which is ok too BUT they often don’t include what happens if invoices are paid late or not at all. This needs to be covered.
It is likely your services will include materials of some form or another. Whether you are fixing a boiler or building an extension it is likely you will have materials delivered to their property. It is important to ascertain who is the owner of such materials and also who must insure them against any risk. Templated documents can be quite harsh on the consumer with this clause, it always has to be reasonable and worded in a way that is not onerous on your customer. I have supported trades with getting accreditation with various bodies and also with companies who have trading standards involvement and this clause they pick up on. It has to be fair.
Whilst any works you complete must reflect your quotation, sometimes during the completion of services you may come across something that you did not foresee at the time of preparing the quote. Your terms must account for this and be clear on what happens in this situation. You may stumble across a pipe you weren’t expecting to be there or internal damage that was not obvious at the time. If you complete the services, you end up out of pocket if you don’t manage this process correctly.
You may have listed what you are doing and what the services are, but it is crucial you explain what obligations they have too.
– Do they need to get planning permission?
– Do they need to supply electricity?
– They certainly need to ensure you have access to the property at times agreed
– What about any neighbouring access?
Any services you complete for your customers must be fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality and last a reasonable length of time. Often you may include a warranty or a guarantee of some sort and this must exist in addition to their statutory rights as a Consumer. You may need to include certain things that may invalidate this guarantee such as any tampering by them on the materials, not following manufacturers instructions or accidental damage.
The above is just a snippet of what needs to be covered in your terms and I can give a more thorough review if you are not sure how watertight or legally compliant your terms are. If you don’t understand them, chances are your customers won’t and they then can be ruled out for uncertainty.
For further support, help or guidance on your consumer contracts please get in touch.