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Contract Legal issues

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Tish6705, Feb 11, 2010.

  1. Tish6705

    Tish6705 Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    We had a really big snow which turned out to be a blizzard. I have 2 apartment complex contracts. Was able to get in and make a pathway at the first complex after the storm ended. The second one (the bigger complex) I was plowing it with the storm to stay ahead of it but had to quit because of white out conditions. This complex sits on a really big hill. After the storm i went back to plow the big complex and with the wind, there were 4 foot wind drifts. I was finally able to get into the lot with a bobcat but the snow was too high and too heavy for both of my trucks and we kept getting stuck. I finally had admit defeat and told the company i could not do the job. They called another company to come out with heavy equipment and is now trying to bill me for it. Can they do this? My contract is very generic. No clause about what happens if I cannot fulfil it, nothing about subcontracting.

    2000 GMC Sierra 2500 with 8 foot meyer plow
    1995 Ford F150 7 foot fisher
     
  2. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    i believe yes they can do this, however, depending what your contract states, you would back charge them. unfortunately you are in the wrong here, in that if you take the responsibility of doing a contract you had better make sure you can handle it. i would really need to read the contract to see where your obligations end, however most contracts well have a clause saying that if you are not performing your duties doing said contract, they have the right to call in additional help and bill you any difference in cost. And even if they don't have that clause, you can still be sued for any expesnes incurred for NOT fullfilling your contract obligations. Some advice for the future, you should always have a backup plan for those 1 in a million snowfalls that your plow can't handle, pay a retainer to a skidsteer operator or other excavation company, then make sure there is a clause in your contract for the extra cost if you have to use their services.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2010
  3. Tish6705

    Tish6705 Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    My contract reads:

    Will plow snow 2 inches or more
    In snow/ice event will apply salt or salt mixture
    Not responsible for damage to snow covered unmarked cars
    Not responsible for damage to lawn
    It has the fees listed and that's basically it. I actually did start plowing and told them I would continue to try and fulfil my contract but there was no way I was going to be able to get through that much snow.

    I know I shoud've had a back up plan and this is definitely a learning experience for me. The winters had been so mild til this year. I think we got 15 inches of snow and that in itself was not a problem but because the complex sits so far up on the hill, the wind drifts made it impossible for me to push it.
     
  4. Mick76

    Mick76 2000 Club Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 2,157

    I think your going to learn a very expensive lesson....
     
  5. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 28,003

    The larger properties that I've done work for (Wal-Mart, larger malls, etc) have always had in their contract that if I don't perform the work, they'll get someone that will and then I'm responsible for the bill.

    They do that so you won't leave them hanging.

    If you've already gotten the bill, you need to decide if it's going to be a legal fight.

    If it's not alot of money (I'm sure it'll be alot to you) just pay it, move on, chalk it up as a learning expense. We all have them.

    If it's alot of money, then you might want to look at hiring a lawyer.

    You are in a bind. Sure, you don't have anything like that in your contract, that you're responsible for other expenses, but you WERE under contract to clear the property.
     
  6. redskinsfan34

    redskinsfan34 Senior Member
    Messages: 879

    I guess I'm a little confused as to why you didn't call the heavy equipment guy to do it instead of telling the owner you just couldn't do it. I'm sure that as long as the snow got cleared the owner would've been satisfied. Then you could've worked out a deal with the heavy equipment that if another one in a million storm comes along, you'll use him. I hope it all works out ok for you.
     
  7. albhb3

    albhb3 PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,510

    should of gone and bought a front end loader its only money:dizzy:
     
  8. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    there is a catch though, they can only sue you for the excess of what it would of cost them if YOU had done it (if i understand the law correctly) so lets say you would have charged them $100, but you didn't do the job, and they hire someone to do it for $200, i believe they can only go after you for $100 extra it cost them. reason being the job was done, even if it wasn't by you, and so if (logically speaking) if they expect you to pay the other guys bill, then it is like if you called the guy, and as such, if you had hired him at a loss, it would be a loss out of your pocket, but you would still bill them your regular rate. (i am rereading my post and i hope you can make sense out of it, also keep in mind i am not a lawyer, but i have seen similar situations)
     
  9. stumpslawncare

    stumpslawncare Member
    from Indiana
    Messages: 60

    I have got to agree, Yeah you most likely would have taken a loss by calling for the heavy equipment, but you most likely would have kept your account. Now you are most likely out on the account and the money! Tough learning experience, but one that will only make you a better owner in the future.
     
  10. Tish6705

    Tish6705 Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    Yea, this is definitely a learning experience. Believe me I tried to get my hand on heavy equipment but no one had any available to rent. i wish I had money to buy heavy equipment but I'm just a little guy who took on too much. I kind of had to tell them that I couldn't finish the job because the 4 foot snow drifts were actually blocking the entire entrance so there was no way anyone could get in or out including emergency vehicles if someone needed help. I certainly wouldn't want that on my hands. I'm not really concerned about losing the contract so much since i didn't fulfill my duties but i do feel bad for having to bail on them. I'd rather give it up than to have this EVER happen again. I am going to take the advice of Buckwheat and back bill them for the company who did the job and the work I actually did.

    Thanks for the replies
     
  11. plowman4life

    plowman4life Senior Member
    Messages: 557

    if you called the other company yourself for say a loader. they send it out clear the lot with you there helping with what you can. they bill you and you tack that cost onto your bill as a extra. they would have most likely paid it wihout question if they saw you and other equipment there.

    this only works if you bill it as a open ended commercial account. thats how we do it if we need help. but it has to be open ended it cant be a closed contract.

    it has to be written like

    plowing of lot- $500 per push
    walks- $100 per clearing
    salting- $ 80 per application
    sanding- $50 per app.
    extra equipment/ personel expense- based on storm

    and if you there 5 times its 3700 or whatever that works out to.

    that way if the other company charges you say $400 for it you add that on as extra for the $400 that makes the bill $4100 or whatever.

    got to remember all commercial contracts need to be open ended and explain that to the customer. b/c that covers your a$$ in the event of that one in a million storm


    i bet any money someone corrects my math (i know its not exact)
     
  12. FisherVMan

    FisherVMan Senior Member
    Messages: 706

    Learn a lesson from all this..................

    Yea you are in a mess here as they are going to shove it down your throat with or without the lawyer............... I think i would listen to the other boys on here and just pay it [the other contactor my give you a break as he is aware of the unusual amount of snow]:help:
    However with all that said ................ you have left your ass hanging out pretty good with the equipment you have as you have basically said you have no problem plowing it with your stuff when the events are only 6-10" of snow and you also have stated that it was way toooooo much for you to mess with when you got a big dump like you just had so for godsake learn from it and dont try to start next season hoping it will never happen again cause it will ! I have good equipment and a small loader and can handle almost anything we ever get but I can tell you my next door neighbor has a 966 CAT and I have the key to it and there is no such thing as a storm that wont get me out of. 98% of the time I use my own loader to move snow around when it just gets to much for us but I have had to take the 966 a few times and just "getter done" like last winter when we got over 200" You probably going to have to be a big boy and take your medicine but you will be a bigger man for it , and the last thing you should do is get pissed at the contractor or the customer as this is NOT there fault its yours....................
     
  13. Advantage

    Advantage Senior Member
    Messages: 766

    You said you were able to get into the lot with a bobcat. Why then could you not chip away at it with the bobcat and your trucks? Unless its a really small machine, a bobcat could certainly handle 4' drifts to at least make it accessible while you finish clearing.
     
  14. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    just to clarify a point, you are on the hook for any of the extra costs associated with the other companies snow removal that goes beyond what your original costs would have been. so if they charged a lot more then what you would have charged, you could be on the hook for the difference.
     
  15. snobgone

    snobgone Senior Member
    from CT
    Messages: 122

    It will most likely end up in small claims and hopefully they consider the severity of the event. Hopefully the contractor charges a fair price. I would calculate what your price should have been as suggested by others and find out what the rates are locally in case the company that supplied the service gouges them. Lesson learned, don't be too hard on yourself. Stay in contact with the client, maybe offer free services to offset the loss and it won't hurt as much. Try to network with some guys that are heavy hitters in case u do get in a pinch in the future.
     
  16. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    very good advice, especially the part about networking with a larger company, or even a rental outfit, where you can get first shot at a skidsteer rental, farmers are other good guys to know in a pinch, excavation companies also.
     
  17. fireboy6413

    fireboy6413 Senior Member
    Messages: 396

    Unfortunately its an expensive learning experience. I recommend when this is all said and done sit down with a lawyer and right up a new contract. Like said above you should have called the company your self. This is a good example for all the guys out their law balling, NOT CALLING you one, but im sure they are going thru this as well. If you want to make it in the snow removal business make sure 1 you can handle the work, 2 most importantly have a very detailed contract covering your ass. Did you see the bill from the other contract, or did they give you a price of whats it going to cost you. Also its a good idea to call the local rental companies around you and make sure you can get a loader, and let them know you may need one. Thats what I did when I put in a bid this year for 2 hotels, so networking can save your but in the long run. Good luck I hope all works out for you
     
  18. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 28,003

    Here's what you have to worry about.

    About 6-8 years ago I had an 8" snowstorm where all 3 of my trucks broke at 6 am. We had 2 lots left that had to be plowed by 9 am.

    I called 2 companies, both I felt I knew fairly well.

    One charged me $50 for a $50 lot, one charged me $275 for a $50 lot.

    I didn't say anything to either company.

    I paid $75 to the company that charged me $50 and I paid $275 to the one that charged me $275.

    Who do you think I call when I need some extra plowing done?

    Hopefully the apartment building didn't call someone and say "how soon can you get here? we don't care how much it's going to be, the other contractor is paying to have the service performed".

    I've been in situations like that, received phone calls like that and I'm an honest person, charged an honest price.

    I had this situation arise over Christmas this year, a set of 3 banks called me in the middle of the storm and fired their then current contractor because he wasn't keeping the bank opened.

    Like I said, hopefully they have a fairly honest contractor that filled in, or else your $100-200 account will probably cost $1000-1500, if not more.
     
  19. DugHD

    DugHD Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 420

    Its a good lesson learned, that maybe you shouldnt have been bidding on something you cant cover in a heavy storm.
    Im sorry that i have been laughing ever since your first post. "I had to quit plowing because of white out conditions" Hahahaha are you kidding? Remember , when the going gets tough the tough get going.

    Anyways , I do feel sorry for you we have all messed up . Good luck with it and dont let it bother you to much .
     
  20. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    i would also like to point out that if you had stayed trying to open up the lot, they may have given you a little more slack. it is easy for all of us to sit back now and be critical with our opinions but realistically most of us have been in pinches before.