10 Tips for Preventing a Dispute Before it Happens

Have you ever found yourself embroiled in a dispute with a neighbor or business and felt paralyzed with the realization that things might have turned out different “if only you had….” Nothing is more frustrating than playing Monday Quarterback when you were the Sunday quarterback who fumbled the Big Game.

Here are some tips for preventing a dispute before it occurs:

  • Get it in writing . When negotiating a business deal, whether it is as simple as moving furniture or as complicated as establishing a business, be sure to put everything in writing. 

    Even if the agreement you have is with your family or friends and you are absolutely sure that everyone will honor the agreement you have worked out, the terms of your agreement should be written out and saved.

    There are several reasons for this. First, if anything should happen to any of the partied involved, it will provide documentation as to the agreement. Second, even among people with the best of intentions, memories fade, and it is often helpful to put everything in writing for future reference.

    Don’t be afraid of insulting someone by asking them to put their assurances in writing!

    Your contract should include:

    • the names of the parties involved
    • the date
    • the specifics of the agreement contemplated
    • the date the action is to begin
    • the date the action is to end
    • all contingencies you can think of – for instance …
      • what happens if either party does not perform according to the contract?
      • what happens is either party cannot perform according to the contract? (e.g. weather problems)
    • the payment that is to be made
    • the time period for making the payment
    • signatures of all parties involved

    If the agreement is important or you are not certain about what other matters should be put in the contract, you should consult an attorney.

    If you agree to any changes from your original agreement, be sure to put the changes in writing too, and treat it as a separate agreement, signed by all parties.

  • Make an informed decision. Whether you are in the market for a service or product – doctor, lawyer, rutabaga, car, car mechanic, electric razor or contractor – it is always a good idea to wait to make your decision until you are certain that it is an informed decision.And how do you make an informed decision?
  • Shop around. Ask questions, read ads, consult Consumer Reports, ask your family or friends for referrals – do everything you can to learn as much about a product, service or professional before you become committed to hiring or purchasing.(Consumer Reports is a monthly periodical which provides information and advice on goods, services, health and personal finance. It is an excellent reference and may be consulted before purchasing items ranging from peanut butter to toaster ovens to new or used automobiles.)
  • Check out references. Check out references before you enter into a contract. If your prospective tenant give you references on her application, call those references! Ask questions about her reliability, why she left her former residence, etc.If the contractor you’re thinking or hiring gives you references, call those references. Ask about the service received. Ask to see the work performed by the contractor. Ask, ask, ask!
  • Check on credentials. Make sure that the person you are about to hire is properly licensed for the job they are to perform, if it is the type of work for which a license is required. For instance, if you are considering hiring a contractor to repair a rock wall at your home, be sure the contractor is properly licensed by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs by calling (808) 586-3000.
  • Check prior complaints. Check to see whether the person or company you are considering hiring has had any complaints filed against them with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. You can do so by calling our offices at (808) 587-4272 and the Better Business Bureau at (808) 536-6956. You can also Check Out a Business Online. These links will take you directly to our online complaint searches:
  • Make sure you can return your products. To ensure that you will be permitted to return goods, be sure to:
    • Check for signs in the store which set out the store’s policy on refunds or exchanges, before you buy. If you do not see such a sign, ask the salesperson for the store’s policy. Once you read the sign, confirm the sign with a store representative.
    • Save your receipt.
    • Save all tags, cards, booklets, instructions and packing material.
    • Make sure the goods are not damaged. Stores are not required to accept goods for refund or exchange if they are not in the same condition they were in when first purchased.
    • Return the goods as soon as you decide that you don’t want to keep them.
    • Report a defect as soon as possible. Many stores limit the time you have to report the defect. If that deadline is missed, you may have to send the item to the manufacturer for repair under the warranty.
    • Be careful of your selection of specially ordered goods or goods such as undergarments and swim suits. Many stores exclude such items from their general policy on refunds.
    • If you wish to return an item you received as a gift without the receipt, some stores may refund only at the lowest sales price. A receipt will ensure that you get full credit for the return.
  • Never sign a document or paper unless and until you understand the full meaning of what you are signing.
  • Be reasonable. It is not advisable to take expensive, time-intensive action for “the principle” of the matter. It is rarely worth it to spend $500 to enforce a contract for the sale of a $200 bike.