In order for you to expand your handyman business, you need a steady stream of work. To do that, you need to line up customers on a regular basis. But a casual conversation with a potential client isn’t enough to close the deal. Nor is a handshake. As a professional, you need a handyman contract in place.
Like your business insurance and accounting records, written contracts are essential to your success. They give you a clear picture of your ongoing obligations and help you stay organized. But most importantly a handyman service contract is your way of protecting your business.
You can certainly hire a professional lawyer to write a legally enforceable contract for you. Or, if you prefer, you can write one up on your own. Just make sure you cover all the basics that need to be included, so your business is properly covered.
Understanding why you need a contract
You may be wondering, “why do I need a contract anyhow”? This is a good question. After all, business has often been done based on trust and a handshake.
First and foremost, you need a contract because in many places, it’s the law. That is, most states in the US require that you sign a contract with clients before you get started. That being said, the details differ from state-to-state. As such, we recommend looking your contractual obligations up on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website first, or a similar local resource.
Even if your state is an exception, and a contract is not needed, you should still use one. Why? Because a handyman contract agreement is essential for protecting your business. It clearly details your obligations to each client, and as importantly, their obligations to you. This not only sets clear expectations, it also protects you in terms of the law. For example, if a client refuses to pay, you can use your contract to take them to court. Similarly, if they claim you did not perform a service they expected, the court can refer to what you promised in the contract to see if their claim holds.
Determining what you need to include in the contract
There are seven main sections you will need to cover in each agreement.
- Basic background intro – Here you will write your company name and address, the customer’s name and address, and the date upon which the agreement begins and ends.
- Detailed work description – The next step is to describe all of the work you will be doing for the customer. This should be done in detail. Don’t write something vague like “fix his living room”. You need to be more specific like: The Contractor will perform home improvement work as follows: Paint the interior walls of the living room in semi-gloss latex paint, replace the door hinges with new cylinders, and add six wooden shelves to form a shelving unit. Don’t forget to include the amount of materials you will need, as well as the estimated cost. Also, include a disclaimer that the final cost may vary depending on the end needs.
- Payment details – This is the money time! In addition to writing the amount due for completing your services, you need to detail how and when the money will be paid. Again, get specific here. For example, if the price of the project is $5000 in total, you may want to include a clause about a pre-payment sum (like $1000) and the rest to be paid upon completion of work. Or if you prefer, you can split up payment into three exact dates. You also need to determine how the money will be paid. If you want it to be paid by check or wire transfer, this is where you write those details.
- Work changes – Sometimes the scope of your work will change as you get the job done. Similarly, you may have unforeseen costs, especially if the client didn’t provide proper information in advance. This is something that needs to be addressed in writing as well. To cover this, write something like any work beyond the scope described above will be charged at an additional fee based on an hourly rate of $X per hour, plus equipment and material costs.
- Conflict resolution – You obviously don’t want to end the job in dispute, but just in case, you need to agree with the client in advance as to what you’ll do if that happens. As such, you need to choose a legal jurisdiction for resolving conflicts. The jurisdiction is usually within the area your business operates and your client lives.
- Coverage information – In this next step, you need to provide information about your handyman insurance. This includes your general liability insurance as well as any workers’ comp insurance you carry. You should also add your certificate of insurance as an attachment.
- Signatures – Add a line to each contract for signatures. This includes your signature and the client’s signature. Then don’t forget to have them sign!
Writing a maintenance contract
If you expect a customer to have ongoing needs, you can add a section to your original contract (as outlined above), describing maintenance services. Or you can write up a separate handyman maintenance contract.
A maintenance contract is slightly different than a standard handyman work contract in that it is ongoing. For example, it may be an annual contract that gives your client X number of service hours each month. Again, make sure to be very specific when writing it. You must detail the exact types of work you will cover during this time. If there are things that are not included, that your client might expect, make sure to describe them as well.
You also want to detail in a very clear way which materials are included in this agreement. For example, all paint, nails, screws and wires required to get the job done. Then state that any additional materials needed will be billed at cost.
Being prepared will save yourself time
Once you have a handyman contract agreement written, you can use the same template for all your customers. If you want, it may be worth having a lawyer go over it the first time, to make sure you got the language right. After that, you’re good to go. Armed with a binding contract, you’re legally protected and better equipped to keep your business growing.