Trees Felled, But Where’s My money?
Dear Aaron: My Trees have fallen and I can’t get paid!
As I was contemplating this month’s topic, I received a phone call from an irate landowner and small businessman.
In talking with a colleague about a theft and fraud presentation a few years back, he came up with the title for this month’s newsletter. I didn’t use the title back then, but I knew it would come in handy one day. Sadly, it is too appropriate in many instances, especially the following.
Verbal agreements do not always stand up
About six weeks ago, the caller mentioned above reached a verbal agreement with a professional logger to harvest the trees on his property for a share of the market price the logger receives. The logger said he’d put the verbal agreement in a contract and then bring the contract over for both parties to sign and consummate the deal.
No contract, but tree harvest proceeds!
Meanwhile, harvesting began and no contract. The landowner didn’t think too much of it. He was busy and, as a business owner, he knew how hectic things can get. He signs contracts all the time in his business, so he wasn’t concerned with the delay in getting a contract for this timber deal. He’d hired a professional and he expected a professional to honor his word and deliver as promised. The logger had new equipment and a new pickup which added to the professional image.
Can you guess where this is going?
Six weeks have gone by. Harvesting is complete. The log deck has timber processed and waiting to be hauled and there is no logging equipment on site. The logger shows up with the scale tickets for the job, but the prices are not what was originally agreed. In fact, the prices are much lower. As it stands now, no payment has been made to the landowner.
What’s your next move if you’re the landowner?
Call a timber security specialist?
Call the sheriff?
Call your lawyer?
Call the state forestry agency that can assist with investigations?
Fortunately for the landowner, he lives in a state where the state forestry agency may be able to assist with this case and hopefully bring enough heat to bear on the logger to resolve the issues, maybe. After all, the landowner does not have a written contract and the verbal agreement wasn’t witnessed by anyone else.
Beware those who seem honest, yet do not follow through
Life is very busy for a small business owner and, for that matter, it’s busy for most of us. As you run from project to project, it’s tempting to let details slide, and trust that everything will work out in the end.
I hope that sharing this story, will cause you to take a minute to pause and look around your business and your life. Are you busy taking care of business and not paying attention to those “unimportant” details that may turn out to be very important after all?
If you’ve followed this site for any length of time, you’ve seen a few articles about written contracts. You can find the links to those articles below.
Things to know about contracts for timber harvest
I suggest it’s time once again to review not only the importance of well written contracts but key items to consider and include to ensure your contracts are fair, accurate, well-documented and reflect the verbal agreements you have made. Finally, even if your contracts are solid, when things go wrong you need to know who to call. As timber security experts DRM is ready to assist should the need arise.