Shoveling Out: Breaking a Commercial Snow Removal Contract

Having the right Snow and Ice Removal partner is essential to the safe functioning of your property. Residents and guests rely on you to keep your community accessible and functioning to the best of your ability, even in severe situations. When you can’t rely on your provider in the worst weather conditions, you’re taking a chance on potential liabilities.

Having the right Snow and Ice Removal partner is essential to the safe functioning of your property. Residents and guests rely on you to keep your community accessible and functioning to the best of your ability, even in severe situations.  When you can’t rely on your provider in the worst weather conditions,  you’re taking a chance on potential liabilities.

Whether your service provider flaked out on the very first winter storm or they can’t keep salt on hand, you deserve better. Safety concerns and personal injury liabilities make reliable snow and ice services a priority, which means that you need to understand your options to get out of a contract when your snow and ice services are not being handled properly. Let’s dig into some steps you can take to free yourself from a service agreement that isn’t meeting expectations.

Reviewing Your Current Predicament

When you look at your current situation, the devil is in the details. Luckily, those details can help you break a commercial snow removal contract. But you need to be able to pinpoint precisely why you are not satisfied with the service. 

Is the issue:

  • Quality of work?
  • Unexpected hidden costs?
  • Slow response?
  • Poor communication?
  • Property damage?

Just being “unhappy” won’t always be enough cause to cancel a snow service contract. What will help is documenting incidents like blocked fire hydrants, snow melting and refreezing on sidewalks, or snow piles limiting visibility on roadway entries making it dangerous for drivers.

Making a change to a more experienced commercial snow removal company will help you avoid becoming a statistic (there were 20,460 occupational injuries related to ice, sleet, and snow in 2017 alone).


Digging Into Your Snow Contract 

Before terminating your commercial snow removal contract, review your agreement’s terms and conditions. Not a thrilling read, but to start, look for sections that include  “termination clauses.” You’ll find details on early termination penalties and how much notice you have to give the company. (i.e., 30 days’ notice).

Do most snow removal companies have termination clauses? We’ve found they do because it helps with scheduling and deciding how many snow accounts a company can take on each season.

At OUTLAND Commercial, our standard snow and ice service contracts have these termination clauses because we want an honest relationship with our clients. We want you to understand all the specifics, and we lay out the pros and cons upfront for the most common winter service agreement options which are: 

  • Seasonal contractual agreements 
  • Time and materials-based snow and ice removal
  • Pay-per-visit 

Seasonal contractual agreements work very much like a landscape service agreement, with a negotiated price for the work that will be needed for the year split into even payments throughout the winter season. While common for areas with predictable snowfall totals, they may not make sense in more temperate climates with fewer snow storms.

Time and materials service agreements are far more common in these areas further south but could make your costs very unpredictable when multiple storms or large storms hit your area.

And while pay-per-visit could save you money during mild winters, costs will be higher than a contractual rate agreement in years with several snow storms or severe snow and ice events.

Communicate With Your Snow Removal Provider 

When you feel like your provider isn’t living up to their end of the agreement, it’s easy to get emotional. Your natural reaction may be to send them packing after a major service failure, but there are other ways to resolve the service relationship’s challenges and make it through the rest of the season.

Why discuss alternatives to ending the contract early with the provider? There may be solutions you’ve not considered. Communication can reveal hidden opportunities that avoid more headaches. Be prepared for push-back, though. Snow and ice removal is brutally hard work, and they may object to your complaints about the quality of their work. 

No company wants to lose a contract, especially in the middle of winter. Snow removal contractors may have difficulty replacing your account since most commercial property managers have already hired someone to handle snow and ice. Plus, many landscaping companies use snow removal services to keep crews busy and revenue flowing in their “off-season.”

Why does this matter to you? Negotiations tend to go better if you have empathy for the other party. To get what you want, consider their motivations and concerns. It’s doubtful the company is intentionally dropping the ball with your property’s snow and ice removal, so enter discussions with an open mind. It will help both sides to get what they want. 

Famed hostage negotiator Chris Voss says, “Demonstrating you understand their perspective can be a crucial first step in negotiating successfully, even if you don’t sympathize or agree with their actions.”

Canceling a Commercial Snow Contract Early: Legal & Financial Issues

There are consequences for getting stuck with an unreliable snow removal provider, not to mention the hassle if you have to scramble to find a quality replacement provider. Still, early termination fees are harmful to the health of your property’s budget, and in extreme cases, the snow services provider could take legal action.

You should start by checking what type of fees are listed:

  • Flat rate?
  • Prorated?
  • Liquidated damages? (fee-based on estimated revenue provider would have received with completed contract)

If you’ve lost all faith in your snow removal contractor, cutting ties may be best, regardless of the fee. And remember, canceling without early termination fees is possible with some common sense negotiation. Even if you didn’t document specific contract breaches, there are other ways out of an agreement if both sides see mutual benefit in parting ways.

If negotiations stall, double-check the provider’s insurance coverage. It may not actually meet your requirements or could have lapsed. Make certain they have all the proper permits/licenses. Also, check into local regulations the company may be sidestepping. Any of these could create an easy loophole and a way out of your agreement.

Explore Professional Commercial Snow Removal Companies 

We get it. Some negotiations crash and burn. If it’s obvious you have to move on, here’s what to look for in a new snow service provider.

A dedicated account manager for your site is huge. You want someone you can call day or night for emergency service and someone who really listens. Studying your new commercial snow contract closely is a must too, especially if the last one had hidden “gotchas.” Comb through each section, noting details that might add to snow removal costs. 

Here are some questions to ask providers before signing a new agreement: 

  • Do they perform background checks on employees?
  • Are third-party contractors used— if so, how are they vetted?
  • How do they resupply their salt or any other needed materials? 
  • How quickly do they respond when a storm hits? 
  • What are their standard communication practices? 
  • Do they have proper insurance covering hazardous winter services?

OUTLAND Commercial runs background checks on every staff member. All subcontractors go through a rigorous vetting process. We are a top rated snow removal company in South-Eastern Wisconsin, so we have reliable access to bulk sand and salt resources. Our giant network of experienced teams gives you added security even during nasty winter storms. 

Contact us today if you have more snow removal questions.

Reminders Before Canceling a Commercial Snow Removal Agreement

Remember these important tips before you cancel your service: 

  • Company size matters when it comes to snow-melting materials’ availability
  • Switching providers mid-winter limits your choice of companies (many are booked solid well before the first snowfall)
  • Being flexible on a new contract helps you get service mid-season from a reputable company
Firing your current provider before finding a replacement can leave you stranded if no replacement can be found

Time to Make the Switch? The Right Steps 

Now that you’ve looked at legal concerns of canceling, and you understand possible early termination fees, you’re set to call and email your provider to end the contract (a registered letter should also legally confirm your decision).

Now you need solid steps for switching to a new company: 

  • Check references and ensure online reviews are legitimate
  • Verify insurance coverage
  • Talk face-to-face with the provider’s representative
  • Walk property with them
  • Take notes on concerns they bring up 
  • Ask if there are any other fees or costs they may charge for service not listed in your agreement
  • Ask what can lead to delays in response time
  • Discuss termination clauses 

Prepping for Next Season

There are other things to consider when choosing a new commercial snow removal company, like combining winter services with landscape management. The most important aspect of choosing a better fit for snow and ice management is clear communication.

Doing your homework helps too. Start with reading reviews to see what headaches other property managers are dealing with. Even better, call two other property managers to pick their brains for the hassles they’ve had with snow and ice management. A little homework keeps you from getting blindsided by problems after the contract ink dries and your property is iced over!

Getting Out of a Commercial Snow Removal Contract Wrap-Up

Now you have some concrete steps for escaping a failing company’s contract and tips for finding a solid service provider to replace them with. So shake off the frustration of feeling trapped and remember: 

  • Research replacement providers before red flags pile up
  • Contracts can be broken if terms aren’t upheld
  • Weigh cancellation fees versus the risk of having a slippery, hazardous property


OUTLAND Commercial has the experience, professional staff, and national resources to ensure you sleep easy on icy and stormy nights. Don’t roll the dice on the serious business of snow and ice removal. Contact us for an estimate today. Starting the process of getting a quote is easy.

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