Wednesday, May 29, 2013

5 Things to know BEFORE signing a contract

If you've recently entered into the world of contracts, there are a few important things you should know. Contracts are agreements between 2 parties.  Business to business, business to individual, individual to individual.  We enter into contracts regularly when we purchase a home, have air conditioning installed by a professional, hire an exterminator.  Businesses enter into them when they hire themselves out to clients or when they have business with another company.

The following are tips that I have learned to protect myself.  They are to protect YOU when you are not the initiator of the contract.

1. Most importantly, when someone hands you a contract to sign, they are more than likely protecting themselves.  You need to add language or have a separate contract to protect yourself.

2. READ the contract.  Yes, read all the fine print and dull, confusing language.  It's there for a reason.  And it's probably not to protect you, but to protect the interests of the company.  (When I went skiing, I was asked to sign a release of liability contract releasing the ski rental company from any negligence. The risk was all mine.) 

3. What you don't understand, ASK.  If someone asks you to sign a contract, that person should know enough to explain what you are signing. If you don't understand it or it's not explained clearly, don't sign.  If you have a question that the rep cannot answer, ask them to call their supervisor.

4. But don't stop there.  Make sure that what they are telling you is actually in the contract.  Ask, "Where is that written?" Many years ago, a rep told me something that turned out not to be true.  I confirmed several times and the rep verbally repeated his promise but it wasn't in the contract.  However, in the county where I live, verbal agreements must be upheld.  So the company was made to fulfill their promise. (Check for state and county laws like this in your area.)

5. Do NOT cave into pressure. Time pressure, "This offer is only good until 8:00pm tonight." If you're uncomfortable, don't sign.  Wait.  Think about it. My dad used to say, "There always another car."  Meaning, another great deal, another beautiful car, another house for sale.

Do I do this myself?  Yes!  I've bought and purchased several homes and always read the bjillion pages of the contract.  I do NOT sign anything I do not understand.  I do NOT sign anything when someone says, "Sign here.  We'll fill in the information later."  No, no you will not.  You'll do it now or I'm not signing. 

Not that you'll ever have the expertise of a lawyer, but you can become savvy enough to know when you're unprotected.

Here is more detailed and useful information on reading contracts:

This information is for educational and informational purposes only. The content should not be construed as legal advice. The author disclaim all responsibility for any and all losses, damages, or causes of action that may arise or be connected with the use of these materials. Please consult a licensed attorney in your area with specific legal questions or concerns.

Angela DiCicco
Angela's Artistic Bouquets

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