If I signed a contract for lawn maintenance but am unsatisfied with the service due to numerous non-professional behavior by their crew, is the contract void?

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If I signed a contract for lawn maintenance but am unsatisfied with the service due to numerous non-professional behavior by their crew, is the contract void?

Their crew mowed over a dead bird left to rot, flung bark chip into the lawn, etc. I sent them a letter with these reasons and stating I wanted to terminate. They called me and claimed I am still liable for 75% of the remaining contract. I feel they violated and so breached the contract which that makes the whole thing void. Is this accurate?

Asked on June 6, 2012 under Business Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no easy answer to your question. Under the law, if someone "materially" violates a contract--which means he or she violates it in some significant or imporant way--the other party would be excused from its performance or obligations (e.g. payment) and would be able to terminate the contract. The question then is, would a reasonable person conclude that the things the crew did were so bad as to constitute a material breach--basically, so bad that they are not providing commercially acceptable lawn service--or not? That in turn will depend on the entire context--how often or how many times have they had problems? how much of an area of your lawn do the problems affect? have they corrected any problems after you made them aware of them? etc.

In short, for significant enough problems, you could terminate the contract and not have to pay; less significant problems would not let you do this; and it is impossible to say, based solely on what is written, where along that continuum this situation falls. One option: you could refuse to pay and see if they threaten or file a lawsuit; then if they do, either pay the amount due or try to settle for some amount you and they can both agree on.


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