Rosemary Reynolds – trainee solicitor at Davis Blank Furniss – discusses… Property Management: General Terms of Purchase and why you need them.

Many people assume that a standard set of terms and conditions are only used in the sale of goods/ provision of services but they can be an effective and versatile way for a property manager to set out their expectations for everyone they employ or contract with at any of their sites.

Terms for a management company or agent can be used to generally prescribe the relationship between them and any cleaners, gardeners, general maintenance contracts or for one-off visits by surveyors.

Many agreements with contractors are made orally. Technically these are just as enforceable as written terms. However, evidential problems can arise when you have to prove what was said. With a set of written terms there is certainty and both parties are aware as to exactly where the responsibility lies.

In the same way that supermarkets put their terms on the back of their receipts, a management company can easily fit a set of comprehensive terms on the back of an order form. It is required that for any terms to be considered as part of a contract they will need to be available at least at the stage that the agreement is made… if not before. Having your terms available when an order is placed (or when it is being sent for tender) satisfies the requirement for incorporation and ensures everyone is working on the same footing.

You can also use terms and conditions to improve the quality of your services as a whole. Within your terms you can impose additional obligations on your contractors; for example, a duty to report fly tipping or damage. By doing this you can improve access to your sites outside of the normal surveying schedule and you will be seen to be proactive rather than reactive for your residents.

Terms and conditions can provide you with much needed protection in a variety of ways. Firstly, they can ensure that any contractors are responsible for carrying out their own risk assessments and taking on liability. Secondly, managing agents will also be able to protect their contacts on their portfolios by imposing confidentiality restrictions on any contractors.

To sum up, terms and conditions should be a central part of how any management company or agent does business. Without them you might just pay a costly and – more importantly – an unnecessary price.

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