Posted by Regie Anne Gardoce on 22 May 2019
When a house goes up for sale, lots of work goes into finding its new owner.
In between the real estate agents, auctioneers, insurance companies, valuers, lenders, conveyancers, brokers, and buyers; a lot of “legals” are happening in the background.
This is because a lot of money is at stake when selling a house. Also, the entire process could take weeks, months or even years.
A beautifully displayed home could mean the difference between a quick sale and a “for sale” sign that grows old and dusty.
So, as a Property Stylist, you have an important role and it’s crucial to make sure your legals are in good shape.
Whether you’re a seasoned player in the Property Styling space or just getting started, you might be asking yourself these questions: What kind of contract do I need? Can I write the contract myself? What kind of trouble could I get into? Do I need my contract done professionally?
Don’t stress! In this article, we’ve done the homework for you.
Legals For New Businesses
When you run any business, there is a checklist of legals you’ll need to think about.
- What is your business structure?
- Is your brand name protected?
- Do you have written agreements for your employees?
These are covered in Sprintlaw’s Business Legals 101 guide, which you can find here.
For Property Stylists, one of the most important questions to ask is: are your contracts up to scratch?
Do I Need A Contract?
A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties that sets out the specific terms and conditions of their agreement.
This can be done in writing or by oral agreement (or both!) – just as long as there is an offer and an acceptance. Some basic information on contracts can be found here.
So, yes – you will need a contract to set out the terms and conditions of your Property Styling business.
Put simply, it protects you from liabilities and any problems down the track that can save your business from a lot of stress.
As a Property Stylist, there are two main contracts you need – one for your suppliers and one for your customers.
1. Customer Contract
First, and most importantly, you will need a contract with your customers.
As a Property Stylist, you will generally have two types of customers: real estate agents and home sellers.
Either way, both types of customers will need some sort of agreement that will set out the terms of your arrangement.
Generally, this is called a Property Styling Service Agreement.
You can call this pretty much anything, but this Agreement – done correctly – is a legally binding contract.
Within this Agreement, there will be a number of clauses that will make sure you’re protected from any liability.
Here are some questions you might be asking yourself:
- What happens if any furniture or equipment is stolen? Or, if somebody is injured as a result of the furniture I bring into the property?
- Who is responsible for any damages to the property?
- What if the customer doesn’t pay my invoices?
- Can I be sued if I do a poor job? What if the customer wasn’t being cooperative?
If you don’t spell out these kinds of terms and conditions, it could cost your business a lot of time, stress and money down the track.
So, you’ll need to think about having legally binding contracts that protect you and your business from these risks.
2. Supplier Contract
Next, you’ll need a contract with your suppliers.
When you are staging a property to look as appealing as possible to potential buyers, your services would generally come in a package.
This could include anything from furniture to paint, floor coverings, and gardening supplies.
All of these will come from suppliers and so, you will need a Supply Agreement.
Now – who is responsible if something happens to those supplies?
For example, you could be hiring expensive furniture from a supplier.
You will need to make sure you have a Supply Agreement with them that will set out the terms of your arrangement.
But – things could get complicated when the terms in the Supply Agreement are not consistent with the terms in the Property Styling Services Agreement.
It’s important to read through the terms and conditions in your Supply Agreement and make sure these are reflected in your Property Styling Services Agreement with your customers.
This can get particularly tricky because you will have to balance the interests of you, your customers and your suppliers.
If you’ve agreed to any risks and liabilities in one agreement, this needs to be the same in the other.
For instance, your Supply Agreement might make you liable for any damages to the furniture they hire to you.
At the same time, your Services Agreement with your customers should hold them liable to the furniture you provide in the property.
These are called “back to back” contracts and, without this, you’ll be exposed to this risk gap and could end up being liable.
So, it’s a good idea to have your Supply Agreement reviewed by a lawyer so you don’t make any promises you aren’t allowed to make!
Why Is A Contract Important For Me?
A legal contract is the lifeblood of any business.
For Property Stylists in particular, a legal contract is a must-have.
When you’re dealing with property that could be worth millions, and many different stakeholders who have several different contracts between them – you want to make sure you’re protected too.
For example, a good lawyer will include a “limitation of liability” clause in your Property Stylist Service Agreements.
This ensures that you aren’t held responsible for styling property that doesn’t make a sale.
Having this done properly in a legal contract will keep your business stress-free from any liability and costs down the track, so don’t sleep on it!
You might be thinking: I will probably never go to court, or be involved in any big disputes, so why do I still need a contract?
It might sound simple, but a contract will help ensure everyone is on the same page.
Even if you’re not worried about the ‘legal’ risks and liabilities, a contract can clarify the deal you’ve struck with your customers and suppliers.
Having your agreement clearly in writing minimises disputes and arguments about things like payment, timing and responsibilities – because everyone knows what they signed up to!
Can I Write The Contract Myself?
It might seem simple to flip your laptop open and start writing up your own contract.
This is a great start – you need to brainstorm any important terms and conditions you want for your Property Styling business.
Your next step is to seek a lawyer’s help.
A lawyer can make sure your contract has all its legal ingredients before it goes off for signing.
But what happens if you write the contract yourself, without seeking professional help?
It’s simple – your contract may not be legally binding.
There may be loopholes and gaps in your agreement that could potentially make the entire contract invalid.
This means that your customer or supplier can breach your agreement without any consequences, or you could be held liable for something that was not clarified in your contract.
The last thing you want is to be sitting in court and being sued for damages because you wrote the contract yourself.
A lawyer will make sure that your contract will keep you protected and give you a good deal.
So, it’s always a good idea to seek legal help to make sure your contract keeps your property styling business’ interests in mind.
How Do I Know Whether My Contract Is Legally Binding? Is Wet Ink Necessary?
An agreement becomes a contract if it is “legally binding”.
This means that whatever is written in the contract can be enforced under Australian contract law.
Under contract law, you need an “offer” and “acceptance” to make a contract legally binding.
Signing the contract by wet ink is the most traditional way someone can indicate “acceptance”. But, that’s not the only way!
Here are some alternative ways to get a legally binding agreement:
Many businesses have ditched the old pen and paper and have moved on to e-signatures.
For most kinds of agreements, e-signatures are a totally valid method for entering into legally binding contracts.
That being said, there are risks with e-signatures too. If you want to find out more about e-signatures, have a look at this article.
2. Implied acceptance
Acceptance of a contract can also be “implied” by conduct.
For example, you can attach your contract at the back of an invoice that states “by paying this invoice I consent to the Terms and Conditions of this Agreement.”
You might have seen other businesses use this, but there are some legal risks with the way this is done and you want to make sure you are doing it right.
Otherwise, your contract may be invalid if was not properly “accepted” in a legal sense.
So, it’s a good idea to seek help from a lawyer to make sure your contracts – and the way they are accepted – are legally binding.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
If you want to make sure you are legally protected from liability and risks, the answer is always yes.
It might seem simple to quickly put together a contract yourself, but a lawyer has the professional expertise that can save you a lot of time, stress and money in the long run.
So, what’s the headache?
The problem is that when people think of lawyers, a significant amount of time and $$ is usually what stops them from going any further.
But, at the same time, you want to make sure your contract has all the necessary ingredients to make it legally enforceable and keeps your business protected.
The easiest solution is to get a lawyer to do all the hard work for you.
Where To From Here?
At Sprintlaw, we have a friendly team of lawyers with fixed-fee packages for Property Stylists (you won’t be charged by the hour!).
We work with small businesses and startups all across Australia, but we are an online business, so we know how to make it easier for you.
Our lawyers can either provide a review of your current contract or create one from scratch, depending on your individual business’ needs.
If you’d like to get started on your legals for your Property Styling business, let’s chat!