Sometimes you can't help signing a General Contractor's contract or a contract presented by the builder or owner of the property.  This is more prevalent with fire alarm and fire protection contractors, but certainly applies for other alarm installation, inspection and repair service agreements.  Here are a few things to think about.
    One reason you have no alternative to signing someone else's contract is because you don't have a credible contract of your own.  You're not getting the job with a major institution,  business or governmental agency using a "proposal" or something you write up on your letterhead, or an obviously deficient contract that you've been using since you stole it from someone else, or worse, paid your long time family lawyer to prepare.  You can get away with the proposal and letterhead when dealing with a simple one day commercial job, though I don't recommend it from a liability perspective, but that won't work with a consumer who is required to get a contract that complies with consumer laws and it's not going to work for the commercial subscriber who actual reads and send the contract to its legal department.  The bigger the job [and subscriber] the less likelihood your contract will be signed.  Get your contract today at www.alarmcontracts.com
    The first consideration is obvious.  If you don't have a proper contract form to present to the subscriber, or general contractor, then you've lost the "battle of the forms" from the start.  You will be presented with a contract that the general contractor and subscriber routinely use.  Sign it or get lost.  Since you need the work, you sign.
    What are you signing.  Truth is, some of you don't look past the contract price - what you hope you'll get paid if you perform the work.  Often that is the case.  Fortunately for my litigation department, not always.  Use to be that general contractors and institutional type property owners and developers used standard AIA forms.  These forms were created by the American Institute of Architects.  These forms, first and foremost, protect the architect.  Then they protect the general contractor and property owner.  Then they stick it to the subcontractors.  That's where you come in.  
    You are likely to find yourself presented with the AIA form, or a variation of that form put together by lawyers with nothing better to do, or client's dumb enough to pay for, 100 page contracts that, for the most part, copy the provisions in the AIA forms, or make them even more onerous for the subcontractors.  
    Keep in mind that the contract form that the GC or developer presents to you is most likely not the entire agreement because it will refer to other documents that you haven't seen and even if you have, certainly haven't read.
    So here are few items you should look for and know that you're agreeing to.  You may have no choice if you want the work, so some of you might want to stop reading right here.

  • You are required to point out design defects if you notice them
  • You are required to point out other contractor's errors and defect in work if you notice them
  • You are required to pay your employees certain wages; prevailing wages according to someone else's standard
  • You are required to have certain number of employees on job
  • You are required to use certain level of employees, whether you think you need them or not
  • You are required to clean up daily - your mess and anyone else's mess
  • You assume the risk of loss of your material and equipment on the job
  • You agree to indemnity everyone up the ladder from you; the architect, GC, Owner, Developer
  • You agree to wait for payment until the GC is paid [not enforceable everywhere]
  • You agree to start on specific date
  • You agree to pay a daily penalty if you don't finish on time
  • You agree that delays caused by other contractors will extend your completion date, but you must get extensions in writing, every time.  Most of the time you won't.
  • You agree to perform extras, pretty much on demand, and you may have agreed to have someone other than you mediate or decide the contract price for the extra work and material
  • You agree you won't get paid for extra work unless it's approved in writing by a specific level of employee.  Most of the time you'll perform the extra work without getting the necessary approval in advance.
  • You agree to keep working even if there is a dispute and you're not getting paid
  • You agree you can be kicked off the job for no reason and get paid only for the work someone else considers you completed
  • You agree to hold backs and deductions that severely strain your cash flow.
  • You agree to obtain certain insurance, some of which may be difficult to obtain, and name the architect, GC, owner and developer as additional insured, and not only additional insureds but your policy must be "primary" for them, which means your policy is first in line for coverage, and the claim may have nothing to do with your work.
  • You agree to litigate or arbitrate your dispute in a jurisdiction and venue that is completely inconvenient for you or so costly you can't afford a dispute.

    Wishing you the best on your next job ......