Read through any contract, and you’re bound to have some questions: What does this mean? Is everything I need included? Who is responsible for what?
Getting all of your questions answered is a must before you sign a contract. You want to make sure you know exactly what is included and if the company is qualified to handle the project.
So when it comes time to sign a new contract for your commercial landscape maintenance services in Washington, DC (or anywhere), ask the right questions to make sure it’s right for you and your property.
Start with some basic questions about the landscaping contract and clauses. You need to understand what you’re signing and what happens if there are problems later in the process.
Once you feel comfortable with the logistics of the contract, make sure you are just as confident with the company you are signing with for your maintenance services.
Finding the right commercial landscape maintenance company takes some time. So, treat it like an interview process to make sure you’re both a good fit for the other.
Here are six questions you should ask the landscaping company before signing a maintenance contract with them.
1. What if There are Issues After the Contract is Signed?
No one goes into a contract expecting issues, but they can come up. It’s important the contract is prepared for that.
The contract needs to include a specific course of action to take if there are any disputes between you and the landscaping company. Each company’s policies are different, so make sure you understand what will happen in this scenario. In most cases, the company and you will work together to see if there can be a resolution before taking the issue to another level.
There should also be a clause that states how and when a contract can be terminated. For example, what if the maintenance company doesn’t provide all of the services they said they would and refuse to correct the situation? They would have breached the contract, giving you the opportunity to void it and possibly seek some type of reimbursement.
You will also need to stick to your part of the contract, such as following the payment schedule, or the company could seek to terminate it.
Although a contract may be broken out into 10 or 12 even payments, that doesn’t mean the landscaping company is performing the exact amount of work each month.
A large portion of the job cost is performed in the spring, but the company is spreading that amount during the length of the contract. We provide a chart that helps estimate the percentage of total work performed in a given month for our clients.
Make sure the landscape maintenance contract covers all of your bases. If you have questions about any of the terminology or wording, seek legal advice.
2. Can We Make Changes to the Contract Later?
A contract doesn’t have to be set in stone if both you and the landscaping company decide it needs to be changed.
Maybe you decide you want to add a service that wasn’t originally included in the contract. Or, you want to change out the plants or materials.
To make the change, both you and the company will need to agree to it and initial the alteration on the contract. For major changes, you may need to void the original and create a new contract.
3. What Services Are Included?
This question will not only define what services will be provided, but it will also help you see if the company is the right fit for the property. You need to make sure they can meet all of your landscape maintenance needs, so ask them to go into detail.
All of the services they will be providing for your site should be listed in the contract. So, instead of just writing they will be giving you landscape maintenance services, the contract should explain what that includes, like mowing, leaf removal, trimming, edging and pruning.
A lot of times, landscape contractors will say they have a full-service company without explaining what that means: Do they offer design, installation and maintenance services all in-house, or do they sub out some of the work? Make sure to ask who will be performing the turf application, since most larger companies subcontract that out.
If they use subcontractors for some of the work, you’ll want to figure out how that process will work and who will be your point of contact. That will help limit future confusion.
You should also make sure this is a company that can grow with you and your needs. While they may offer all of the services you need right now, do they have the ability to do more for you in the future?
Maybe you currently need landscape maintenance, but if you decide to install a patio or landscape lighting later on, can they handle that? Be sure the company is the right one for you now and down the road.
The contract should also include the service plan — like the number of mowings, turf applications and flower included. That will allow you to more accurately compare bids when you have all of the information.
The company needs to include when and how they will give you information in the contract, as well. Will they give you weekly or monthly reports? You want to know when you can expect to receive the information.
4. Do You Have the Right Experience?
Not only should you make sure the company is including all of the services you need in the contract, you should also check to see if they have needed experience to execute the tasks.
Here are some questions to ask to see if they are qualified:
- How long have you been in business?
- Have you maintained similar properties in the past?
- Can I talk with your clients to see how you’ve done on their commercial properties?
- Are there any local properties you manage that I could visit? (We recently recommended that a prospective client visit a site so that they could see our commercial landscaping services in Arlington, VA first-hand.)
Make sure the professional landscaping company has maintained a commercial property that is similar in size and needs as yours. Seeing what they’ve done in the past will give you real examples of the services outlined in the contract.
5. Is Your Company Insured?
You should also ask the maintenance company about their insurance coverage before signing anything.
The company should have workers' compensation and liability insurance. If they don’t have the proper coverage and one of their employees is injured on your property, you will be responsible.
Their coverage information should be included in the contract, so check to make sure it is there.
You should request a certificate of insurance (COI) from the landscaper. These are easy for the insurance agent to prepare and show the detailed amounts of coverage the company does (or doesn’t) have.
Smaller landscaping companies may have insurance, but the coverage isn’t always the highest amount, like what Level Green Landscaping carries. Between traffic, property density and high-end buildings in the Washington DC area, having more coverage is important.
6. Are You Focused on Safety?
Even if the company has all of the right insurance coverage, you still don’t want them to have accidents on your site.
Talk with the company about their safety record or ask their references if they are focused on safety. Instead of just asking if they are “safe,” you can break it down into more specific questions:
- Does your crew wear all of the proper safety equipment?
- When was the last time one of your employees was injured on the job?
- How severe was the injury?
- Do you conduct regular safety checks and meetings?
- How important is safety to you and your team?
You can also search the company’s name on OSHA’s website to see if they’ve had any accident citations filed against them. If the company has failed an OSHA inspection or had an accident, the site will also show how they responded and what actions they took to improve.
Sign on the Dotted Line
Contracts are meant to protect both parties and guarantee services. Make sure it does just that by first asking the right questions about what’s included and how the company will follow through with the services.
A qualified landscaping company will be ready for any question you throw their way. And the best ones will give you all the information you need upfront.
Choose a company that is transparent about what’s in the contract and has all of the services your property needs. Look for one that’s easy to communicate with and will be a good partner.
At Level Green Landscaping, our core service is commercial landscape maintenance. We offer maintenance services like mowing, trimming, blowing, pruning and edging.
Our team works on sites in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, including office buildings, mixed-use and retail, HOA and condominium, municipalities and institution properties.
But, we can do more than just keep your property well maintained year round: We also offer construction and landscape design, landscape enhancements, snow and ice management and irrigation management.
Contact us at 202-544-0968, or fill out our form to get all of your landscape questions answered.