When was the last time you looked at your customer contracts? Not all installers spend much time on creating or customizing contracts. In many cases, alarm installers may have found a template to use or were provided with a boilerplate contract to use by a supplier or other company. However, ignoring your contract’s language and what it stipulates can cause major problems later on, especially if a client considers suing your company.
When possible, we suggest customizing your own alarm installation contract to make sure it has everything that you need. Here are a few tips to help you get started with your contract checkup.
Include Maintenance Details If You Offer Scheduled Work for the Future
Maintenance work is a very common part of alarm installation. Installers will often agree to do checkups, inspections, and other visits in the future. This is so common that many contracts are called “Installation and Services” or “Installation and Maintenance.”
If you offer maintenance like this, it’s important to define it very clearly in your contract. Lay out in clear language what you, as an installer, will be responsible for in future maintenance, the dates you’ll conduct this maintenance, and the overall goals of that maintenance. Some templates have literal checklists at this point to go over every detail. You may also want to include language that allows you to change the fees charged for services after a certain time, such as one year, to keep up with rates. Language like this may be limited by state laws, so always do research before trying to add something like this.
This is a particularly important part of any installation contract, because one of the most common points of contention for angry clients is an alarm system that doesn’t work properly or fails when it’s needed. Installers need to be able to point to their contracts and show exactly what they were responsible for and when they completed these services.
Pay Attention to Deposit and Refund Sections
Any language in the contract that requires deposits or includes the possibility of a refund should be very specific. Use percentages instead of specific numbers for these sections. List clear timeframes that show when deposits or requests for a refund are due. Include payment requirements for these processes, such as how payments must be made and to what specific entity.
Duties of the Client, Buyer, or Subscriber
This section is a common addition to help decrease liability. Essentially, installers make it very clear what the client is in charge of for the alarm system to function. That includes stating that the alarm system is now their personal property, and that they are in charge of any required permits now and in the future — although you can still help them out if necessary. It also states that owners need to supply the system with a certain kind of electrical current or charged battery for operation, or it won’t work. It sounds obvious, but this is another section that comes in particularly handy when lawsuits and liability issues are on the table.
Refuse Liability for Anything Outside of Your Control
This is a boilerplate section that may have many names but is always an important part of a security-oriented contract. Check that your contract includes this section and that it specifies all the hazards outside of your control that tend to impact alarm systems.
For most installers, that means stating that they aren’t liable for issues related to shipping delays, sudden equipment failure, natural disasters or storms that cut power to alarm systems, riots and looting that alarms can protect against, and so on. There’s usually some broad “act of God” language in this section, and many installers use this opportunity to give themselves the legal ability to adjust dates and scheduled visits as necessary if an emergency comes up.
Many installers also include lines in this section that say the company itself isn’t responsible for installation mistakes or unexpected problems in installation. That won’t necessarily prevent a lawsuit if the installation goes poorly, but it does provide an argument if an installer gets taken to court.
A False Alarm Section
All alarm installation contracts should have a section on false alarms. This may be bundled into a larger section on the responsibility of the client as we mentioned above, or other sections on liability. False alarms remain common even with the most advanced systems, and it’s important to clearly state that your installation company is not liable for any problems resulting from a false alarm. That could include fees from the city, damage done by alarm responders, and other situations that the contract should detail.
Reviewing Your Contract
Keep these tips in mind as you review your contract and make a list of possible adjustments and ideas for a new version of your contract. You don’t always need to change much — sometimes a few lines are enough to make a big difference.
When it comes to rewriting a contract, we advise you to contact a business attorney. An experienced lawyer can review your contract and the list of changes you’re interested in making and create revisions for you. It’s a relatively quick, affordable process and this is one area where getting expert help is important.