Sample terms and conditions
I use the following terms and conditions in my daily business. They are based on a mix of what I have seen in cookie-cutter contracts and personal observations of what seems to matter to my customers. To put the terms in context:
- I usually work direct for private clients who I visit in their home and talk to in depth before submitting a quote.
- I approach all work on a room-by-room basis, which makes the format totally scalable. ie the terms for a single utility room apply to every room in a whole country mansion.
I present the following information in a letter form, rather than as a stodgy legal document.
Ref: Quotation for decorating work at ……….
Thank you for offering me the opportunity to quote for re-decorating your home. I enclose an itemized fixed price quote covering all the points we discussed. You are welcome to use the specification to get comparable quotes.
Working full time it would take me ….. to complete the work
I am booked up till ….. so I could start the work on ….., if the quote is acceptable to you.
I offer a colour advisory service for which I charge … I will give you painted samples so you can confirm the colours you like, before I start any finish painting.
If you want the carpets to be left in situ, I will protect the flooring with plastic. I use an extraction sander to keep dust to a minimum while work is in progress, and I leave the room clean and tidy before I leave.
I would like to be paid for the labour and material costs on completion of the work to your satisfaction.
If you have any questions about the quotation, please do not hesitate to ask. If you want to accept the quote, please drop me a line confirming you are in agreement with my proposal and we can discuss a start date.
I then move on to the quotation, where I itemise all the work, with individual prices for labour and materials. The information in the quote itself answers any questions about standard of workmanship, materials used, where extras would apply. At the bottom of the quotation I conclude with a point relevant to every customer. eg:
Please note that I price all jobs on the basis of working with uninterrupted access to rooms / work areas that are clear of furniture and sundries. If you want me to move the heavier items out the room and replace them at the end of the work, I charge a basic fee of …
Depending on previous discussions and the customer’s individual concerns, I may include further explanations eg the different finish of lining paper vs re-plastering, or clarify the likely disruption when I am hand-painting a kitchen… Just to ensure there are no misconceptions.
To those thinking that my approach is a bit weedy compared to a wordy contract presented in miniscule print – I included this set of terms in a quotation for work for a former lawyer. Apparently he ran one of the largest law firms in the North West, and he said he liked the thoroughness of the whole proposal – which was quite reassuring. (Cynics might say he liked it because he could have easily torn the terms to pieces in a court of law, had he so desired, but I have been using the same format for 12 months now, and so far, so good.)
Terms reflect a business philosophy
A good deal is where both parties feel comfortable. What is not acceptable is a one-sided deal where heads I win, tails you lose – or vice versa.
In the US, the standard terms from painting contractors are thorough, but as a client, you better hope the contractor is always fair-handed. (I have a background in professional estimating, and I have seen first-hand how sharp contractors operate, by leaving out details, and manipulating numbers so that they can hammer the customer with extras – and there it is madam, in black and white, you owe me a bunch of money.
In my experience, most US contractors would not dream of starting work without a substantial sum up front. I understand the cultural differences, and indeed, the money upfront idea isn’t exactly alien to the UK, but personally, I again look at it from the client’s point of view – hence I prefer to play it by ear, with the emphasis on a relaxed but business-like relationship.
With the quotes and terms I submit, I try to make it very obvious to clients that they will get a high quality job at the price they expect. And if problems arise, I don’t start by waving the terms around. If the oversight is mine, I accept responsibility, otherwise, I endeavour to work out a solution that is fair to both parties.
(If you are in the trade, feel free to use or adapt what I have posted – at your own risk, obviously!)
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