Are you a plumber sub-contracting for a builder or a contractor who works directly for customers?

You need a good Client Agreement to help you protect you and your business interests.  A well-drafted Client Agreement includes your Quote and your Terms and Conditions.  You can reuse your Client Agreement over and over for each new customer.

Your Client Agreement should cover the following:

  • Quote – this should have client specific details, and also a short explanation of the services, payment and fees, and your payment terms.
  • Price – this is one of the key sections. You should clearly set out what your fees or hourly rates are, and what the payment terms will be. You can charge call-out fees, request a deposit upfront, allow payment within 7 days of invoice, etc. It is entirely up to you. However, to ensure that you are paid for your services, it is recommended that your request a deposit to be paid before work is commenced.
  • Time extensions – delays can be a significant issue between a plumber and their client. Your Terms and Conditions can state that you are not liable for any delays caused by factors outside of your control or by the client. Any such delays should enable you to extend the expected completion date proportionately.
  • Variations – changes to the scope of work is a common cause of dispute between a plumber and a client. A good Client Agreement can assist in these situations and avoid the breakdown of the relationship. The Terms and Conditions should outline a procedure when a client wants a variation in the services.  If they require a variation or any additional services, it is at your discretion whether or not to provide it. You may request that the client provide you with adequate notice and put into writing what additional services are required.
  • Defects – how defects are dealt with can be outlined in your Terms and Conditions. You may insert a clause which sets a notification period for clients to notify you of any defects and provide you with an opportunity to inspect the defect and arrange to have repairs made.
  • Refund or repair – you should consider have a refund or repair policy in place in the event that one of your clients are extremely dissatisfied, and you should have this to fulfil your obligations under the Australian Consumer Law. Having a good refund or repair policy can help avoid lengthy and costly dispute resolution methods, and often any refund that is made, is significantly less than what mediation or litigation would cost.
  • Consumer guarantees – the Australian Consumer Law applies to you if you provide a service to a consumer. You need to include a warranty section in your Terms and Conditions and your terms need to state that the customer is entitled to a refund or repair if there is a fault or failure with the services that you have provided.  To protect your business, you can also exclude a number of circumstances where neither a refund nor repair will occur, such as if the failure is due to the customer’s negligence or fault.

Staff contracts

If you hire employees or contractors, it is important to have a written agreement which includes any Award, pay, your requirements, and safety issues.  You can protect your business by adding a non-compete clause, as a deterrent to poaching your customers or your staff.

Website Terms of Use

If your business has a website, you need a Website Terms of Use. These apply to every website visitor, protect your website and limit your liability for your website. The Terms claim your copyright and intellectual property rights, and set out permissible and prohibited uses of your website, including that competitors cannot use your website information.

Privacy Policy

If you collect, use and disclose personal information from customers, including using the information for direct marketing, you need a Privacy Policy, to assist you to comply with the Privacy Act.  The Privacy Policy is between you and each person that you collect personal information from. It sets out what personal information your business collects, how this information is used, and under what circumstances the information will be disclosed to third parties.

Conclusion

Before agreeing to do any work, you should speak to a lawyer and have a Client Agreement to help protect and strengthen your business. A professional Client Agreement can save you money, reduce disputes, help you get paid and limit your liability.  Detailed Terms and Conditions for your plumbing business will contain a number of clauses created to minimise your risk, protect your interests, and ensure that you comply with consumer law.

Ursula Hogben

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