Contract Review Checklist:

15 Issues to Look For Before You Sign a Contract

Purpose of the Contract Review Checklist

In its most basic form, a contract is merely an agreement between two or more people to do or not do a particular thing.  That sounds simple enough, but when obligations are buried in the fine print in the middle of a lengthy document it may easy to miss a serious pitfall that you are agreeing too.  If you take the time to thoroughly review and negotiate the terms of your contracts before you sign, you should find, in the long run, that it is time well spent.  Before signing any contract, review the following tips:

1.      Negotiate the Terms

When presented with a contract, remember that this is a starting point.  You can negotiate the terms of nearly every agreement.  You want to make the deal happen, but so does the other person.  Don’t’ be afraid to ask for what you want.  The worst that can happen is they say “no.”

2.      Identify the Parties

Correctly identify all parties.  Use the complete name of the business to avoid confusion and identify corporate officers as such.  Determine the marital status of individuals if spouses will be required to join in execution of the document.

3.      Complete all Blanks

Complete all blanks on any preprinted form because items left blank can be filled in later by someone else.  Be sure all changes or deletions are initialed.

4.      Double Check the Business Terms

Double check the business terms of the contract (price, amount, duration, square footage, etc.) to determine whether it accurately reflects the agreement of the parties.

5.      Automatic Renewals

Look for automatic renewals.  Do you have to give notice if you do not want to renew?  Are there penalties if notice is not timely given?  Is renewal on the same terms as the original agreement?  Are there price increases?  Consider adding options to renew on favorable terms.

6.      Allocating Risk

Determine how risk is to be allocated. Risk is typically borne by the party in the best position to prevent loss. However, there may be reasons for a different allocation. Check insurance requirements. Will you be able to obtain the required insurance within your budget?

7.      Harmless and Indemnification Provisions

When you agree to hold someone harmless you are agreeing to not hold him or her responsible for liability that may arise out of the transaction.  When you indemnify someone, you are agreeing to protect him from liability or loss that may arise out of the transaction.  If you must indemnify the other party, limit the indemnification as much as possible.  Negotiate the same indemnification for yourself.  For instance, if you, as buyer, agree to indemnify the seller of a business for losses he may incur as a result of actions after the sale, then he should indemnify you for losses you may incur as a result of actions before the sale.  These are very important terms in a contract that should be reviewed and negotiated carefully. 

8.      Incorporated Documents

When another document is incorporated by reference always read the incorporated document. Don't assume you know what it contains.

9.      Events of Default

Parties in a contract default all the time.  Before signing a contract be sure to determine what acts constitute events of default and whether you are able to enter into and perform under the contract without causing a default.  Also, consider what should be included as events of default by the other party.

10.    Remedies Provisions

Review remedies provisions.  Determine the worst that can happen to you if you default. Explore ways to limit your liability.  Also determine what types of remedies you need in the event of default by the other party.

11.    Causes for Termination

Review causes for termination.  Consider including ways to terminate the contract if it is not working to your benefit.

12.    Dates and Deadlines

Check dates and deadlines. Always keep a calendar of dates and deadlines for important events and anything required to be done by you or the other party.

13.    Warranties and Representations

Review and understand warranties and representations given by you and the other party.  Don’t give any representation if you do not actually know that the representation is true or if the other party is in a better position to know the facts being represented.  If you must give warranties, try to limit them as much as possible.  For example, a warranty in a deed might say that you warrant title to the property.  You can limit the warranty by saying that you warrant title to the property only during the period of time in which you owned the property.  Remember that the other party is trying to do the same, so watch for disclaimers or limitations.

14.    Rights and Responsibilities

Know all of your rights and responsibilities under the contract.  Carefully read the entire contract because rights and responsibilities are typically scattered throughout the agreement.

15.    Resolution of Disputes

Determine how you want to deal with resolution of disputes. An arbitration or mediation requirement could ultimately save you lots of time and money.  However, there are times when you may need to go to court to resolve the dispute.  When appropriate, try to give yourself some flexibility.

Entering into a Contract

The foregoing is a limited list of general provisions to consider when entering into a contract. The type of transaction that is the basis of the contract, as well as the relative bargaining positions of the parties will dictate the actual terms of the agreement.  

If you wish to talk with a qualified, professional lawyer, call Sutton Law at 859-578-6600 or contact us online to discuss your legal matter and learn about your options.

Free initial consultation with our attorneys.


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