“A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule.” – Michael Pollan
When did things get switched around? When a plumber arrives on site, the contractor fixes the problem and leaves a bill. The plumber doesn’t expect payment up front.
When the pest control person shows up, the contractor does their job and sends an invoice. The contractor doesn’t expect payment up front.
When the electrician shows up, the contractor does the work and leaves an invoice. The contractor doesn’t expect payment up front. This happens in your own home and even at your condominium association for such things. And when an employer hires a contractor, the parties negotiate the terms of employment such as sick pay, insurance, salary or hourly rate, vacation time and more. But after that dance is done, the employer gives the employee a contract to sign.
But for perhaps the two largest line items in your budget, snow removal and landscaping, it is reversed, where the contractor submits a contract to the condominium association part of which requires the company to get paid up front, at the beginning of each month, even during the months when they are not doing anything. What?!
I always suggest associations reverse the trend because in addition to the upfront payments each month, frequently there are too many items missing from the contract. Here are some of the items that should be in your contract and things to consider for the contract.
• Make sure the contract requires the landscaper to carry (and to provide proof to the Associations of) both general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance.
• Personnel shall be properly trained and otherwise qualified to perform all tasks.
• Contractor shall provide supervision to oversee all operations.
• Set a date by which they have to walk the property with a board member or manager in the spring to agree on what needs to be done.
• Require the contractor to meet up to twice with the board, in case concerns arise.
• Mowing should be performed at set intervals, such as weekly or no later than every ten days,
• Contractor is required to acquire state and local permits if needed.
• Lawns grow at different times throughout the year, most in the summer, a quick spurt in the spring, and less so when fall arrives. So vary the schedule accordingly, so they will mow twice in April, thrice in May, weekly during the summer, three times in September and twice in October.
• Do you want grass clippings collected and taken off site? They will sometimes bag as they move, and if so, they may want a place to dump them. If not allowed, make sure there is language that have to take clippings off site.
• Do you want them to use leaf blowers to herd the clippings into one area or to clear areas of debris in the spring and fall? Too loud? What hours? Or do you want them to rake the grass? Keep in mind, leaf blowers are used because it speeds things up and therefore, they can get in and out quicker and have more accounts. They are, however, one of the worst things for the environment. So, do you want to pay more which, divided up by the number of units and further divided by the number of months is likely not a lot.
• Do you want them to do plantings? If so, where and when. Who will water/weed?
• Are they bringing mulch? If so, how much and by when? To what depth should mulch be deposited and spread? 2”, 3” 4”?
• Will they fertilize? If so, when?
• Have spring cleanup (debris and downed branches) done no later than the beginning of May.
• Are they to clear leaves in the fall? If so, make it as late as possible as leaves fall at different times, unless you want to pay more and have them appear bi-weekly through October and November.
• Have language that walkways and paved areas shall be clear of clippings after every mowing.
• Do you want them to edge around beds, roadway edges? Parking lots?
• Will they be pruning? When they do depends upon what types of trees/bushes you have on site. Do some research and see when would be best for the types you have.
• You should have language that notes that they are to maintain anything they plant until the end of the fall season and replace the plantings if the do not take.
• Make sure the contract reads either they will be paid after the completion of work done for the month, but will receive payment no later than the last day of the month or have them paid in full on the 15th of the month for the work currently being done. Too many, way too many, have their own contracts that require you to pay them up front on the first of the month, and if not done, they won’t appear on site until paid. Void that contractor.
• Have a 60-day out clause, for either party, upon 30 or 60 days’ notice.
Attorney Robert E. Ducharme is a former teacher whose civil practice is limited to condominium law, primarily in Rockingham and Strafford counties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Ducharme Law, PLLC, found at www.newhampshirecondolaw.com.