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Time and Materials Contract: What Is It?
A time and materials contract, or T&M contract, is a contract that's used to reimburse one party for the costs of the materials needed to complete a job, along with a predetermined hourly wage and other fees related to the service being provided. This type of contract is used when the exact time frame, the overall cost of the project, and the rigidity of the project's terms are unknown to the hiring party.
For some, this type of contract can sound like too much trouble to pursue. For others, the fact that this contract allows them to base how much they pay on work anticipated rather than having to know each aspect about the project before it begins gives them the ability to get started with ease. Understanding whether or not it's right for you begins with figuring out if you meet some of these basic guidelines.
Here is an article that defines this type of contract further and gives you a specific example in regards to its use in the construction industry.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Time and Materials Contracts
Every contract comes with pros and cons that are crucial to assess before you begin crafting the specific contract for the individuals or organization you're working with. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of time and materials contracts? Let's break each of these down to get a better overview of what to expect when choosing this type of contract over other options at your disposal.
Advantages of T&M Contracts
- Provide you with the flexibility needed in your agreement as you're only paying a set amount for the materials and time taken to complete the project
- Make negotiating terms and conditions easy as these are established quickly when writing a T&M contract (as long as you and the contractors are able to reach a mutual agreement and neither party try to negotiate terms that would only provide benefits for themselves)
- Allow you to cap the maximum amount of hours for the project, which makes it so that you don't have to deal with clients who may take as much time as they want to make more money
Whether there are delays or projects are finished faster than expected, there are few consequences when using this type of contract. Overall, T&M contracts allow you the flexibility you need when you simply can't estimate the scope of the project when you're enlisting the help of a contractor.
That being said, there are some disadvantages that come with choosing a T&M contract instead of a fixed-price contract, which is a contract in which there is a set date for completion and exact terms and conditions regarding the cost of materials and pay.
Disadvantages of T&M Contracts
- Without a not-to-exceed clause and maximum caps on costs, you may find yourself facing issues with negotiations or contractors taking advantage of these missing items.
- You have to deal with the extensive process of actively tracking the materials being used for the project as well as the billable hours, which can be difficult to achieve, especially as you're running your own small business. The level of involvement in a T&M contract is far more than that required in a fixed-price contract.
- There's no established budget, which means total costs can far exceed what you anticipate having to pay initially.
Because there are a lot of unknown variables in the project that leads to a T&M contract, there are naturally many potential disadvantages that arise from these variables. It's important to carefully consider whether or not the disadvantages outweigh the risk. If not, you may want to take your time to do further research surrounding your project and consider a fixed-price contract instead.
To better understand the difference between T&M contracts and fixed-price contracts, read this guide on fixed-price contracts for a full overview of what it is and how it's utilized.
Image via Unsplash by markpot123
Should I Use a Time and Materials Contract?
Much like there are many unknown variables that lead to the development of a time and materials contract, there is no true guide that helps you define whether you should go with a T&M contract or not. Here are a few things to consider if you're not quite sure whether or not a T&M contract is right for you.
- Is it possible for you to determine a time frame and cost for the project either through experience or with the help of a third party? Some projects may have so many unknowns that it isn't possible to determine how long it will take or what the process will look like. However, if you don't have to leave the time frame and cost up to the contractors working on the project, it can be better to go with a fixed-price contract instead.
- Do you have the time to dedicate to tracking the cost of materials and hours? If you can't take care of this yourself or enlist the help of someone else to take care of this, it may be better to try to find a way to make a fixed-price contract possible.
- Are you prepared to deal with any changes in cost? If you want to have a strict budget you would like to adhere to so you don't end up overspending, this is not the best type of contract to go with for your project.
Approaching this type of contract can come with great risk. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate these risks. If you plan on using a time and materials contract for a project, you can take fewer risks by enlisting the help of a contract lawyer. A contract lawyer who specializes in your industry can help you draft up a solid T&M contract that provides beneficial terms for you and the contractor, help ensure that you aren't missing any essential clauses that could prove damaging to your business later on, and help you negotiate terms and conditions with the signing party.
You can use this guide to learn more about the benefits of using a contract lawyer for your T&M contract needs.
In summary, a time and materials contract can be used when the entity hiring a contractor to work on a project is uncertain about the amount of time it'll take to complete the project, what the overall cost of materials will be, and what course the project will take as it is being completed. If you anticipate using a T&M contract or want to know whether or not it's something that your organization could or should utilize, use the guide above to dive deeper into time and materials contracts and consider enlisting the help of a contract lawyer to help you draft up a solid T&M contract today.
Meet some of our Time and Materials Contract Lawyers
In his firm, Talented Tenth Law, Antoine focuses on helping people maximize their protection and prosperity in the courtroom and the boardroom. His firm’s services include representing people in lawsuits involving breach of contract, many types of civil lawsuits and helping business owners win government contracts among other things.
Tom is a former chief legal officer of public and private companies. He has extensive experience in mergers & acquisitions, commercial transactions, joint ventures, finance, securities laws and general corporate law across a broad range of industries, including construction, consumer products, e-commerce, energy and healthcare. As an attorney who practiced at two different Top 50 international law firms, he can deliver "Big Law" service at a competitive price. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Tom served as an officer in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Captain. He served a tour in Iraq where he led a reconnaissance platoon and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
Craig E. Yaris is a partner at Parlatore Law Group, with the experience and drive to handle all your Franchise, General Business Practice, and Mediation needs. As a former small business owner and Chief Operating Officer of a franchisor himself, Mr. Yaris is passionate about promoting business growth. He has experience handling daily operations, employee disputes, and negotiations of pertinent contracts for a franchise company with 100 locations in five states, where he organized and conducted semi- annual meetings to educate and inform franchisees of best practices for improved growth. In addition, Mr. Yaris was responsible for the preparation and filing of the UFOC (Uniform Franchise Offering Circular) in several states and is well-versed in business formation. Between his time as Franchisor and Conflict Resolution Specialist, Mr. Yaris was the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of an online company whose goal was to help inform marketers and business owners of the fast-paced and ongoing changes within their specific verticals. This experience helped him hone his research and writing skills and prepared him for the cloud-based aspects of Parlatore Law Group. Mr. Yaris also has extensive experience in public speaking, as he has planned and delivered several keynote addresses and educational seminars for many New York-based organizations, and as a Continuing Education Instructor for Hofstra University. Prior to joining Parlatore Law Group, Mr. Yaris worked as a Patient Advocate, and more recently, a Conflict Resolution Specialist, where he mediated and resolved disputes on behalf of patients with insurance companies. In this role, he negotiated for coverage of previously denied medications and medical procedures as well as successfully mediated disputes between individuals and business partners which would have otherwise resulted in protracted litigation. In addition, he has experience mediating employer and employee disputes as well as helping resolve family conflict. He has also studied and attended many Non-Violent Communication (NVC) workshops and strives to bring these tools and methods to all of his mediations. His variety of experiences speak to his ability to handle small business needs at all stages of business growth and development. Mr. Yaris also has experience with business growth and development, as he has worked with several small business on creating and implementing strategies for steady growth. In addition, to spending time with family, Mr. Yaris volunteers his time helping spread the message of the ACLU and he supports many local charities focused on families and children. He is admitted to practice in New York.
Amy has served as outside general counsel and litigator to established businesses throughout western Washington since 2010. Her passion and focus is providing the best possible representation for clients in the construction, transportation and hospitality industries.
I am bar certified in the lovely state of Missouri. I received my J.D. from The University of Iowa College of Law (2019) and my B.A. in Political Science from BYU-Idaho (2015).
I am a solo practitioner with offices in Denver, Colorado and Austin, Texas with a focus on general business and real estate contracts.
Experienced business and contract lawyer. Our firm specializes in commercial litigation and dispute resolution.