Over the years we have noticed a trend when it comes to contracts. Many owners often leave decisions up to the Strata Manager which is normally fine and often the best course of action as they have the knowledge and skills to determine what is best for their clients. However what happens when a contract is signed on behalf of the owners without it really being read? Let’s face it, we all do it. Terms and Conditions on phone contracts, gym memberships and many other things are often printed so small it’s hard to read them or so long you’re put of doing it.
When it comes to contracts with service providers, there seem to be a few misconceptions about the legal obligations between the two parties, especially when it comes to termination of services. Most contracts will have in them a clause or section that relates to how the services the contract is for can be terminated. These normally cover things such as dispute resolution procedures, grounds for immediate termination and the like. One of the most important things to note about this part of a contract is the Notice Period.
Owners can choose to change providers for a number reasons but unless it’s a case of gross negligence or misconduct, chances are there will be a required notice period for termination. What many owners don’t understand is that this notice period is laid out clearly, or should be, in the clause within the contract and can only be altered through mutual agreement of both parties. Unfortunately this doesn’t help the strata manager when a council comes to them and advises they want to change but have to be told the change cannot take place for X amount of days/weeks/months.
It’s a good idea when it comes to contracts with service providers within a strata community to make sure at least one council member has read and understood the terms and conditions of the contract. This will save a lot of tension and headaches on both sides and will also mean should anything come up, it can be dealt with in line with the contract terms. Many a case has been dismissed because the person/people signing a contract simply didn’t read it thoroughly or understand it fully and many councils are left with strained communications and interactions whilst a service providers serves out their notice period.
So please, make sure when you receive a contract from a service provider that you ask as many questions as you need to before signing it. Once you’ve autographed that page, it doesn’t matter if you missed something or misinterpreted something, the contract is legal and binding. Don’t be left in a situation where no one is happy and everyone is off side simply because of a few lines on a page.
For additional information about this in your state, contact the Department of Commerce; www.commerce.wa.gov.au in Western Australia.