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  • Writer's pictureKristen Shields

"Benefit of the Doubt" is Officially Gone.

If you’ve heard me speak or taken any of our classes on AllForContractors.com, you likely have picked up on my cynicism of customers these days. Without question, my role as a construction attorney and being given the situations that require clean up, and the crazy customers that come with that, have shaped my perspective. My last handful of trials have involved nonpaying customers and unfounded (to put it politely) reasons for not paying. Fortunately, justice can prevail, and I can help contractors recover from these customers. I’m on a streak (knock on wood), but with that means I have been exposed to the crazies.

 

Pre-pandemic, there was a deterioration of the “benefit of the doubt.” In other words, if in question, what you say will be taken at face value and presumed honest and accurate. Nowadays, that is completely gone. People are quick to accuse, you’re guilty until proven innocent, and you have to protect yourself more than ever against customers (and people in general). They may start out friendly but turn on you in an instant when it’s advantageous for them. Therefore, ensure that you:

 

  1. Always get a customer’s signature on an estimate or contract showing acceptance – If it’s verbal, it did NOT happen. Period.

  2. Include an attorney’s fee provision in your contract (that the customer signs per the above).

  3. Have a state-compliant contract. With residential services, you are held to different standards in most states than purely commercial work. Your contract may have different requirements as well. (If you are a Tennessee contractor, we need to have a discussion).

 

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