Home Inspectors Can Avoid Lawsuits by Including This Clause into Their Inspection Agreement
Coffee meeting. In the event of a problem, complaint or bad result with the inspection service or report, CLIENT agrees to meet with the President of YOUR COMPANY, INC. for at least one hour (60 minutes) sipping coffee at a local diner without any other counsel or person present. CLIENT agrees to openly communicate in good faith in an attempt to come to a resolution, prior to filing any legal complaint against YOUR COMPANY, INC.”*
Why Include This Clause?
I rather spend an hour talking and sipping coffee with a former client instead of spending a lot of time and money seeing a complainant in court. I can’t imagine sitting with someone in a non-confrontational, face-to-face meeting and not being able to come to some sort of understanding and resolution to a problem.
I propose that most complaints that home inspectors deal with stem from their client’s improper expectations or misunderstanding of the inspector’s service. Setting your client’s expectations should be handled prior to agreeing to perform an inspection. If you didn’t do that, then this agreement to meet informally afterwards is your chance to set things straight and avoid litigation.
Emotions can run high and strong words are often used when the method communication is impersonal, such as through email, voicemails, or letters from attorneys. In the least, an informal meeting can calm the situation.
It is unknown whether a court will enforce this type of clause, but a judge may look favorably upon its spirit and intention.
The benefits of the “Coffee Meeting” clause include:
·Communication is open and frank
·It costs less than litigation
·It’s less time-consuming
·Relationships might be preserved
·Both parties stay in control
Consider the “Coffee Meeting” clause as your own little alternate dispute resolution service. The “Coffee Meeting” provides an excellent opportunity for the following:
·Your client gets to explain the problem experienced with the house;
·Your client gets to explain why they are disappointed in your service;
·You get to explain the service that you provide; and
·You get to determine whether you are responsible for the problem or not.
Plenty of Time
At the 60-minute meeting you and your client both get to work towards a resolution. You have plenty of time to:
·Speak in your own words;
·Review the inspection report;
·Identify and prioritize the problem(s) being experienced;
·Agree to take a second or third look at the property you inspected;
·Read over the Standards of Practice and Scope of the inspection service you provided; and
·Explain why a particular problem your client is experiencing is not your responsibility; or
·Work out a way to make your client whole if it is determined that you are responsible.
What If You Are Responsible?
If you are responsible for the problem your client is experiencing, this meeting provides you time to fashion your own solution, including creative, service-oriented “win-win” options that are not available in a courtroom.
Retain the Option
There is another clause that should include in the agreement that retains the option to arbitrate or litigate if you and your client do not reach an agreement over coffee. If the dispute is not settled during this informal meeting, the process can lay the groundwork for the later resolution of the issues. Even if things progress to formal litigation, this informal meeting can set the stage for that process by narrowing and defining issues, and assisting in the discovery of relevant information.
What Really Matters
In the end, it is not about who is right or wrong, or who wins, but about agreeing to informally work towards a resolution that meets everyone’s needs without involving litigation. One more piece of advice, you buy the coffee.
Want more clauses to insert into your agreement?