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How important is a written agreement or contract

  • I only deal with people who are comfortable with a handshake agreement

    Votes: 3 15.8%
  • I generally prefer a handshake agreement, but if someone wants it written down and signed, let's see

    Votes: 5 26.3%
  • I generally prefer a written agreement, but I could be okay with someone who wants to keep it verbal

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I require a written, signed agreement, at least for the essentials

    Votes: 11 57.9%
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Discussion Starter #1
I'm developing a model contract for beekeepers in my area. I've collected some samples from various sources, and read through them to get an idea of what information they ask for (names, dates, etc.) and what are the general concerns that make people think a written agreement/contract is important.

In a week or two, I plan to post a detailed poll of what provisions people think should be put down in writing.

For right now, can I ask people to say what provisions are most important, in case something bad happens?

What provisions are good for keeping everyone happy in an ongoing way?

This is meant mostly for small operations, for people with a few outyards, or just one or two hives on other people's property, but pollination agreements are an important point of reference, of course.

And for the moment, I'll poll on whether a verbal, hand-shake agreement is usually the best.
 

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I think one of the main issues, oddly enough, is that the old landowner dies and the kids think those are "Grandpa's bees". That can be fixed by branding all the equipment, but a document wouldn't hurt. I've never done a document, but I did brand all my boxes before I started putting them on other people's land that weren't close friends. I also branded them with my domain, so they can find me if they want... phone numbers seem to change...
 

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I think the biggest issue is liability. That is where I want written and signed documents. In a litigious world any written defense you have is a good thing to have.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
... plus insurance companies require written agreements.
Which insurance companies, and how do they come into the picture?

Would they get a copy of the written agreement?

I'm in an urban location, with home owners and commercial properties, mostly. Is this the sort of thing that you call the insurance companies in advance to find out their take on it, or do they come in later if something has happened?
 

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Maine has new pesticide application laws where requirements are much clearer and easier for the beekeeper if they are leasing the land the hives are on. This can be disregarded if no regulated pesticides are used on/in the colonies. I talked with a staff member of the Maine Pesticide Control Board yesterday and was told that Honey Producers are exempt from the new law. My reading of the law is different and I will seek out confirmation of the PCB staff member's opinion.
 

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Which insurance companies, and how do they come into the picture?

Would they get a copy of the written agreement?

I'm in an urban location, with home owners and commercial properties, mostly. Is this the sort of thing that you call the insurance companies in advance to find out their take on it, or do they come in later if something has happened?
Law in Ohio requires apiaries to be registered. The land owner can get a citation unless a pollination agreement is present (the written contract). The land owner's insurance company can drop him for owning hives if it is not an agricultural insurance (same way some insurance companies don't insure certain dog breeds). In addition, our insurance company covers vandalism losses, theft as well as natural disaster losses to the equipment. That's why having a written agreement is important apart from the fact that it also serves as a proof of ownership.
 

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Essentials:

My hives, my bees, my equipment.
Nobody but me or a signed representative by me opens, messes with, or manipulates the hives.
Whatever the payment will be: jar of honey, free pollination, nothing expected, etc. what I don't want is for somebody to expect halvies on the honey crop
Reasonable, 48 hrs, notice of pesticide spraying.
Reasonable notice, one week, to remove off property.
Okay to get to and from hives.

Beekeeper should take responsibility for:
knowing legality for keeping bees on property.
Water sources. ( you should be able to site your own hives)
Protecting from livestock, wild critters

As far as stings, since landowners know these are BEES, everybody takes their own risk
 

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For the situation where a landowner agrees to let you place your hives on his property essentially for free, I am in the camp that a written agreement has no legal value, is unenforceable, and is counter-productive because it can scare away some land-owners and also gives everyone a false sense of security. My opinion is different if one is doing pollination services for a fee, or is actually leasing a small plot of land for hive placement, or any other bona fide business arrangement for placement.

I would point out that the poll in this thread is from the perspective of the beek. It does not consider the landowner's opinion (who obviously controls whether the hives are placed on his property).

I am interested to hear of any cases where a written agreement was successfully enforced in court by the beek in a place-on-the-land-for-free situation?

If I am wrong and there are such cases, then knowing the details of enforcement can be very helpful in writing such agreements going forward.

FWIW
 

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I would think it would be enforceable, at least over here with the civil code, however, indeed, it might end up scaring more people than its worth. Besides, tacit agreements can have just as much strength in courts than written ones (again, civil code). If beekeepers start suing landowners to keep their hives on their property, however, we are all going to have a heck of a harder time finding new spots to place our hives.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I would point out that the poll in this thread is from the perspective of the beek. It does not consider the landowner's opinion (who obviously controls whether the hives are placed on his property).
Yes, it's from the beek's perspective. The poll questions are meant to cover various positions, drawing mainly from the thread Outyard agreement. Some beeks have a "take it or leave it" approach,

No hand shake, why bother? I would walk on down the road.
But in another thread, on Liability, several people give good reasons for a written contract.

The best advice I've seen so far, is to focus on the specific issues and provisions that the two parties think are really necessary.

Responding as a retired company exec that's reviewed hundreds of contracts, not a beek, if your primary concern is ownership of the hive, spell that out in a simple document and move on. All other items will make the document seem onerous and cause a party to either not sign the document, or, worse yet, engage their attorney to review it. Otherwise, don't take the risk by putting your hives on someone else's property. Any other items I'd work on the handshake principle. My two cents of an already over-litigious society.
That's the reason for this thread, to ask What are the really essential provisions, whenever a written agreement seems required?

I am interested to hear of any cases where a written agreement was successfully enforced in court by the beek in a place-on-the-land-for-free situation? If I am wrong and there are such cases, then knowing the details of enforcement can be very helpful in writing such agreements going forward.
That's obviously an important question, and I'm interested to know the answer too. But maybe another reason for a written agreement is it can help guide the process, before things go to court.

I do plan to put together something in a week or two, for further consideration here, so right now I wonder what else people think is really necessary, so long as (for whatever reason) either the beekeeper or the property owner thinks a written agreement is needed.

I'm also trying to get my head around the point that several people have made, that monetary payment makes a contract enforceable, and that if there is no payment (in one direction or the other) the courts may not even want to look at it. Do I have that right?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Besides, tacit agreements can have just as much strength in courts than written ones (again, civil code).
Don't they call that an "implicit agreement"? But there has to be some action or situation that "implies" the agreement. E.g., a verified payment, or the fact that someone's hives are on someone else's property.

(Assuming I can prove that they are my hives on someone's property, e.g., by branding them as Michael does.)
 

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I'm also trying to get my head around the point that several people have made, that monetary payment makes a contract enforceable, and that if there is no payment (in one direction or the other) the courts may not even want to look at it. Do I have that right?
Yes, in addition to an agreement (whether it be written or verbal), there must be an exchange of consideration (something of value) for a contract to be formed and thus there be an enforceable agreement. A couple of jars of honey as a courtesy to the landowner won't qualify, either.

I guess another good question is how many beeks have entered into a written agreement with a landowner in a place-on-the-land-for-free situation?

JMHO
 

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I'm also trying to get my head around the point that several people have made, that monetary payment makes a contract enforceable, and that if there is no payment (in one direction or the other) the courts may not even want to look at it. Do I have that right?
What makes a commercial contract enforceable is both parties receiving value.
The value need not be monetary.

It might be the simple enjoyment of having bees on one's land, or pollination value, or that they might act as bear bait during hinting season.
The specific value need not be identified in the contract, only acknowledged.

For instance language in a photographer's model release often says words tot he effect of,
"In consideration for value received, I grant unlimited rigths for their commercial use in any and all media in perpetuity to _____"

The language has been well tested in court,

The model / photo subject acknowledging that value was received is sufficient to validate it as a commercial contract even if no money changes hands.
 

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It might be the simple enjoyment of having bees on one's land, . . .
IMHO, this won't be sufficient because "enjoying" the arrangement is always present, otherwise you wouldn't be doing it.

We can sit at our keyboards and speculate on what works and what won't work forever. The true test is what has held up in court, which is why I was asking for any cases people may know about.

People have been putting hives on land for free for many 100's of years. That there are no court cases of enforcement (if that is indeed the case), indicates how unenforceable such agreements are.

If the beek wants an enforceable contract, he needs to pony up some real money (or exchange something else of real value, i.e. such as a set percentage of the honey crop, provide an equal service-in-kind, or, going the other way, get paid for the pollination service, etc.) to make the arrangement an enforceable contract.

In other words, the beek can't be getting something for free (placement of hives on land), and then expect a bunch of legal obligations to arise.

JMHO
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I guess another good question is how many beeks have entered into a written agreement with a landowner in a place-on-the-land-for-free situation?
Okay, the situation for me is there's a non-profit organization that's been planting "orchards" in various places around the city, and now they're saying it would be mutually advantageous for beekeepers and the places that have an "orchard" in the lot next door or whatever to put hives there. That's preface, because the orchard-planting group planted the trees but isn't really a party to the beekeeping part.

Some of the lots are owned by other groups and organizations, and some of them are thinking there ought to be some sort of contract. I'm looking at one contract with all sorts of waivers and indemnification clauses that basically puts all the load on the beekeeper who puts the hives on that property. (I guess they have a lawyer on the Board.) Whew! I'm not signing that contract, but another beekeeper did. I don't know who, but that's one beek with a written agreement in a place-on-the-land-for-free situation.

Anyway, the idea is that as our beekeeping association gets more involved in promoting beekeeping in the area, in general, we should be able to help out as needed when beekeepers and property owners want to set up something. The "orchards" project is just a gateway into the general topic. I'm a back-yard beekeeper with limited space in my own back yard, and my hives have all survived the winter, so I'm thinking about expansion possibilities.

I realize "urban beekeeping" is a spectator sport for most of the folks on BeeSource, but it seems like we don't have to reinvent the wheel here. We can learn something from people's experience elsewhere, and not just about treatments and manipulations, etc.

P.S. Keep in mind that Philadelphia is the birthplace of all modern beekeeping! :applause:
 

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Thanks for the background info. Sounds like an interesting and worthwhile project.

I'm looking at one contract with all sorts of waivers and indemnification clauses that basically puts all the load on the beekeeper who puts the hives on that property.
I believe this is what to expect when the landowner is doing what he sees as a favor to the beek and has to sign a written agreement. In other words, why would a landowner agree to take on a bunch of obligations and restrictions to the use of his land, when he sees what he is doing as a favor to the beek . . .? Put another way, if a beek asks a landowner for free hive placement, the landowner says "yes", and then the beek pulls out a written agreement, the landowner knows he is in the driver's seat and will revise the contract for his benefit and protection. Of course, there is always the chance of an exception . . .

The beek can tell the landowner that he is actually getting a good deal by having hives for free, but that landowner will get all the benefits of pollination and helping mother nature, etc., whether the hives are on his property or the next property down the road.

Maybe all this discussion will help you identify the problems of such arrangements to give you a chance to solve them. I am just suggesting that people have to realize that no matter how wonderful the language might be for the beek, the landowner has to agree to it, too. And, since he is handing out a freebie, the landowner will dictate terms. Finally, in the end, with no exchange of consideration, the contract is unenforceable.

FWIW
 

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Discussion Starter #18
... people have to realize that no matter how wonderful the language might be for the beek, the landowner has to agree to it, too. And, since he is handing out a freebie, the landowner will dictate terms.
I'd like to think all parties can realize there is mutual benefit, and mutually agree to reduce the legal entanglements.

Here's some language I found, in poking around, and I wonder what folks here think?

Hive Host, Landowners, and Hive Steward (Beekeeper) do hereby mutually release, indemnify, and hold harmless the other from any and all liability for any damage or injury to any person or property sustained on the said Property, whether such damage or injury is due to negligence or any other cause.​

Maybe it overreaches when it says even negligence or any other cause of damage or injury should be overlooked. And the first line seems to collapse too many legal functions into one conglomerated sentence. But the idea! Everybody excuses one another... :gh:

And here's another line that might be included in a written agreement:

The Parties agree and understand that honeybees, by nature, may fly to and from various locations, and a particular bee may not be traceable to or from any particular beekeeper or hive, and release, indemnify, and hold harmless for all liability and its hive stewards/ inspectors.​

This tucks in an observation that's been made in discussions here, that no-one can really prove that the bee that stung came from a particular hive.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
The poll closes tomorrow. Any last minute votes?

There's a theory that most of the votes thus far (3, 3, 0, 10) are from beekeepers who don't even have outyards, who are basically saying "IF I had bees somewhere else, I would definitely want a written contract."
 

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I've only dealt with three separate land owners, but each time it was a handshake only.

Like what was said above,

Nobody inspects my colonies without explicit consent (In VA state has full authority to inspect)
No promise of honey is ever made. If yields permit, which is always the case, I will provide honey for personal use throughout the year.
Full authority to access hives on my schedule. If special events arise, I certainly accommodate landowners.
pesticide spraying handled on case-by-case.
 
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