Non-disparagement clauses prevent you from saying anything negative about a company.
They are usually in the fine print of contracts, invoices, receipts, and websites.
If you break a non-disparagement clause, seek legal counsel.
One of the best parts about finding a local pro whose work you love is spreading the word to others. If you have a negative experience with a contractor, you may also want to share that too—however, a clause in your contract could prevent you from doing so.
NDCs, or non-disparagement clauses, are a type of “gag order,” one that some contractors slip into contracts in the fine print. Here’s everything you need to know about NDCs and why you should avoid them.
What Is a Non-Disparagement Clause?
In a nutshell, a non-disparagement clause is language in a contract that says you can’t say anything bad about the company once they complete a job. While at first, this might seem like a non-issue—why would it be if your contractor does their job well?—this clause can cause serious complications down the road if something goes wrong.
Usually, non-disparagement clauses, or gag orders, are built into contracts to stop homeowners from posting bad reviews online if something goes wrong with a job. It’s understandable that people wouldn’t want bad reviews; after all, so many local businesses rely on reviews to keep them going. But you have to ask yourself, why would a company need to include this kind of language? While a customer may have unfairly burned them in the past, they could have other reasons, one that could have to do with the quality of their work.
Regardless of the reasoning, if you see this kind of language in a contract, take a beat and don’t sign anything until you’ve talked to an attorney. Non-disparagement clauses in general contractor agreements are a big red flag that could indicate the company doesn’t believe in the quality of their finished product.
Why Would a Contractor Use an NDC?
Some contractors use non-disparagement clauses to protect themselves against bad actors. They try to safeguard themselves against homeowners leveraging the threat of bad reviews to get price reductions. However, some companies ultimately decide against using them because most people are fair with their reviews.
Plus, the existence of a non-disparagement clause itself could cause harm to a company’s reputation. If word gets around that a company is trying to gag their customers from posting bad reviews, you have to start asking why they would do that.
Where Would You Find an NDC?
Read every contract very carefully because non-disparagement clauses are usually in fine print deep in contracts, invoices, receipts, or websites. While some people read everything thoroughly, many people simply sign what they’re handed and don’t think about the content until it’s too late. Comb through any contracts you’re given during your home project, and if you have questions, consult an attorney.
If you find an NDC, but still wish to move forward with the contractor, have an honest conversation about it. See if they can give you reasoning for including it and if they’d be willing to compromise and take it out.
What Happens if You Break an NDC?
Simply put, if you signed something with a non-disparagement clause and then posted a negative review, the company may be able to sue you. The clauses are put in place so that a company can take legal action against anyone who breaks the agreement. The best thing to do is read through your contracts thoroughly and don’t sign anything with a non-disparagement clause so you don’t find yourself in this position.
Communication Is Key
The bottom line here is to keep open communication with your contractor. The vast majority of contractors out there are honest and hardworking, and if you come to a disagreement, you can resolve it by talking it through. If you find yourself in a situation with a dishonest contractor, you may have to take action, but communication is always the first step to assessing the situation.