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It happens more often than you might think: A property management company gets hit with a lawsuit because of a pest infestation that causes the tenants considerable headache. The company tries to shift the blame to the pest management professional for “failure to resolve the issue.” Similarly, a homeowner may sue a PMP for the same reason — failing to fully eradicate the pests.

As a small or start-up pest control company, you cannot afford a lawsuit, much less several. You also do not deserve the stress or slander that comes with legal issues. Fortunately, Pest Control Technology shares a few simple ways you can limit your exposure to lawsuits.

Document everything

Documentation is key in any type of lawsuit, pest control-related or not. If you do not have documents proving that you completed the job correctly, or at least attempted to do so, you do not have a case.

From the first free initial consultation until the moment the customer signs off on your services, document everything. Document each visit, work performed, products used and communications had between you and the customer. Include as much detail as possible, and, if possible, take photos. If a customer refuses follow-up services against your recommendations, make note of this. Better yet, send the customer a dated letter detailing the refusal and possible consequences in a polite yet professional way.

Pay attention to contract language

Not only should you never perform work without a contract but also, you should never sign a contract without carefully reviewing its language. Go over every contract you sign, even if it looks exactly the same as the one before it. Make sure the language does not create a loophole for the customer or make you responsible for something that is otherwise out of your control.

Educate the customer

Inform the customer about what to expect from the process and what is necessary to obtain the best results. For example, many tenants, when they discover bedbugs in their units, may throw everything out, including sheets, mattresses and sofas. After the fact, they may sue your company for the cost to replace said items. Let property managers, homeowners and tenants know that tossing everything is not necessary, and then document these communications.

Know when to walk away

Effective pest control requires a partnership between the PMP and home or building owner. For treatment to work, the home or building must undergo adequate preparation. Provide new customers with a preparation checklist. If a customer fails to complete the checklist, walk away from the job.