Working as a contractor in the construction industry can mean that you do a lot of work for homeowners and property managers. From repairing damages that result from storms to helping people remodel and update properties, your job helps people maintain or increase their property value. There's nothing quite as satisfying as a job well done when you have helped a homeowner fix or change part of their house.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who are unhappy with the work you do or the service you provide. Taking a proactive stance on protecting yourself from claims from unhappy clients is one of the most important legal things you can do for yourself as a contractor. Here are three suggestions for critical inclusions in your next contract.

Be very specific about expectations and performance

Vague standards for the work you are going to do could come back to hurt you in the future. Your clients could end up claiming that the work you do does not meet the standard that you agreed upon with them.

Carefully outlining exactly what is going to be done, from the color of paint you will use to the height of the counter you will install, can help ensure that you can prove you did the job as the client requested.

Give yourself legal grounds to collect on the money you're owed

Some people will do just about anything to get out of paying a bill. From canceling a check written to a contractor to claiming they have already paid in full, there are many underhanded tactics people may take to avoid paying a contractor who has done a good job. You should take steps to protect yourself in your initial contract.

Outlining what steps you will take, including filing a contractor's lien against the property or hiring a third-party collection agency can help motivate the other party to remain honest throughout the transaction. If they refuse to pay or cancel their payment, having that clause in your contract can make it easier to take legal action in the future if it becomes necessary.

A thorough contract is one of the most important tools that any construction professional working independently can have at their disposal. If you do not currently have a strong contract, it may be time to consider sitting down with an attorney who understands the Minnesota laws in this area and develop a new contract that better protects your business.

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