In today's society we are required to sign our names to many different documents and papers, ranging from the simple and mundane, such as a credit card receipt for dinner, to the complicated and overwhelming, such as a contract on a new home that may cost several hundred thousand dollars. Whatever the document, the signature carries with it an obligation to fulfill the requirements of the agreement. The question you should consider as a lumber and building material dealer is, do you always know what you are signing?

A necessary part of any LBM dealer's business is taking and fulfilling orders from customers. The ways in which the orders are taken and obligations are formed vary from basic purchase orders to detailed contracts. For a pro dealer, most of these agreements are made with their builder-customers for the sale and delivery of specified materials. While these agreements are essential for both seller and buyer, it is important for dealers to understand what all their obligations are and exactly how much liability exposure their companies have. It is each party's responsibility to protect their own interests, but based on many conversations that NLBMDA has had with dealers, it seems that builder-customers are doing a better job of limiting their risks than dealers are doing at limiting their own. The increasing transfer of liability from the builder to the dealer is a growing concern among many in the industry who understand that signing onerous and unfair agreements can put their entire company's future at risk.

How can you make sure you are not putting your company at undue risk? NLBMDA is pleased to announce that, due to the work of some dedicated dealers, two new resources will soon be available to help you better understand contracts and limit unfair liability. This fall NLBMDA will release a contracts education program designed to provide dealers with the essential information and terms they need to know to negotiate fair agreements. NLBMDA also will make available to dealers sample contract language that can be used in certain circumstances to help limit a dealer's liability in situations where they were not at fault. Our goal is to provide dealers with the tools and resources that, with the assistance of their own legal counsel, will give them the assurance to truly know what they are signing.

Don't expose your company to unnecessary liability—become more knowledgeable about all the agreements you sign. For more information on NLBMDA's contract education programs, call 800.634.8645.

T. J. Cantwell is director of regulatory and industry affairs for NLBMDA. 800.634.8645 E-mail: