Understanding Written Contracts
Almost every day, consumers in Western Michigan are asked to sign contracts. These can include buying a car, a home, hiring a contractor for a remodeling job, obtaining a loan, or buying merchandise from a door-to-door salesperson. Unfortunately, many folks know very little about contracts or have serious misconceptions that might end up costing them thousands of dollars.
Contracts are legal documents designed to protect both the buyer and seller. They allow the company to define, in specific legal terms, the extent of its obligation to you for the delivery of goods and services while committing you to the price to be paid once the specifications are met. They also give you reasonable assurance that the company will do what it promises.
When you sign a contract, you are acknowledging that you have read and thoroughly understand it. For this reason, we suggest:
Be wary of vaguely worded provisions, exclusions or limitations that could later cause a problem. Insist on clear explanations – or don’t sign.
Don’t be pressured into signing before you’re ready. Don’t accept the claim that, “It’s only a standard contract, just routine.” This can be a dangerous statement to believe.
Insist that all oral promises be included in the contract. Proving later what someone “told you” is tough. As the old legal expression goes, “Oral promises aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.”
Keep a copy of the signed contract. It is the only proof you have of the agreement.
All parts of the contract should be completed before you sign. Never sign a contract with blank spaces.
To really play it smart, spend a few dollars and have an expert or lawyer review any significant contract to insure that your interests are protected. This is a very good idea!
Important! Callers often tell us, “I know that I have three days to get out of this purchase.” But contrary to popular opinion, most contracts do NOT have a “three day” provision and cannot be broken unless both parties agree. Penalties for customers who just “change their mind” can be severe. Never sign to just get a salesman out of your home.
Always remember to get a BBB report on companies before you buy. You can check our web site, www.westernmichigan.bbb.org or call us 24 hours a day at 1-800-6 THE BBB. If you have a problem, use the complaint form at www.bbb.org or write us at: BBB, 40 Pearl, N.W., Suite 354, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Perhaps we can help. Our office serves all of Western Michigan.