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Q.Do we have to use triplicate forms for contracts and other construction documents, or can we use laser-printed pages and just have the clients sign both copies?

A.Gary Ransone responds: It’s okay to use laser-printed pages, as long as all parties (not just the clients) sign. Here’s a signing procedure that has worked for me: I sign and date the last page of the contract, then initial the bottom of each page of the contract and any "attached" pages ( subcontractor bids, sketches, or other written materials referenced in the contract). I then ask the owner do the same. This eliminates any later confusion over whether or not the owner received and agreed to all pages of the contract. You can standardize this process by including at the bottom of each page a simple box that says "Initial here," with space for the required marks. (It’s not necessary to print this message; you can use an inexpensive, pre-inked rubber stamp instead.)

I always make two extra copies (printed, not photocopied) of this original contract and its attachments. I keep one copy for my files and give the owner the original and the other copy — both of which I have initialed on every page and "wet signed." The owner keeps the extra copy for his or her records, and returns the original copy to me after signing it and initialing each page. To help keep the copies straight, I stamp the original contract at the top of page one with a red stamp that reads: "After Reviewing Please Sign This Copy and Return to Contractor."

It is better, although not essential, to have a contract for your files that has been "wet signed" by the owner, rather than a photocopy of the agreement and the owner’s signature. Some contractors are more comfortable sending out an unsigned contract for the owners to sign first and return. This is perfectly fine and gives a little leeway should you wish to make last-minute revisions and issue a revised contract.

Gary Ransone J.D., is construction attorney and contractor in Soquel, Calif., and the author of The Contractor’s Legal Kit.