Just sign here! Trust me!

Lawyer on the phone

“Just sign it!”

I know this is not about ventilation or even building science, but I want to say a few words about contracts.  I want to urge people to read before signing.  A contract is an agreement between parties to do something for something.  “If you do this, I’ll do that.”  Pretty simple.  “If you paint the fence, I’ll give you a chicken.”  Could be done in a conversation and with a handshake.  Of course the parties would have to trust each other.  Custom written contracts can be pretty clear and simple too.  They are written specifically to suit a specific situation.  The parties write them, read them, talk about them, and agree to them.  If something goes wrong – “You painted my fence blue when you knew I wanted it white!” – if what would happen was put on paper beforehand  – “If  I don’t like the color of the fence, I’ll give you a scrawny chicken” – then you get a scrawny chicken.

The trouble is that people don’t write specific contracts anymore.  They use something they have used before which often consists of a whole lot of boiler plate legalize that probably doesn’t apply and may even confuse the issue if anyone bothers to read the contract.  And that is where the real problem lies.  Wait!  Here!  Read this Contract if you want this software!  Who reads those things?  The contract could say, “If you use this software, we’ll own your house,”  but no one reads those things.  Of course, the lawyers will tell you that would never hold up in court, but where’s the line?  If you sign a contract that says you will paint my fence and I throw in a clause that says that’s the only fence you can paint for the next three years, would that hold up in court?  Just sign it.  It takes too long to read it.  It’s just boiler plate stuff.  Legalize.  Everybody signs these things.

What happened to trust?  What happened to giving my word?  If we don’t read the contracts we sign, then we are encouraging lawyers to write contracts that may or may not actually apply to the project at hand.  It’s a lawyer’s job to try to construct contracts that are as broad reaching as they possibly can to protect their clients in any contingency.

  1. We need to read the contracts we sign no matter how long or how boring they may be.
  2. Both parties need to agree on the contents of the contract.  To accomplish that they need to be able to talk about the contents.
  3. These points are especially important if the contract is a generic, off-the-internet set of words.

I increasingly run into contracts that say things that I can’t agree to.  Maybe it’s because as I get older, I get pickier about what I agree to.  People might say I am becoming a curmudgeon.  But I am shocked by how many people don’t read the contracts they sign at all.  They really want that job so they’ll sign anything.  There are no negative consequences with contracts until someone screws up.  What happens then if it is a bad contract?  Maybe nothing.  Maybe a lot.  But if I agree to something in a contract, I’m going to abide by it.  I’m giving my word.  If I haven’t read it, what’s my word worth?



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