Changing Your Consultant? – Frequently Asked Questions

Changing a consultant is an important decision during the course of a site cleanup. Your consultant needs to understand all aspects and concerns that may interfere with your business/property, and therefore be able to strongly represent your interest to other parties involved in the environmental cleanup. This includes State and local government agencies, the UST Cleanup Fund, possible lending institutions, property tenants, and adjacent properties that may be affected.

The ability of your consultant to successfully manage all of your interests while navigating through the numerous stages of an environmental cleanup will greatly affect the cost and duration of your project, as well as potential liability and future property use/restrictions. Given the degree of change and modification that both the USTCF and the State agency have undergone within the last year, it is now more important than ever to reevaluate your consultant’s performance and capabilities, and the project path and timetable to closure that you’re currently on.

A large number of USTCF claimants, after years of being involved with a site cleanup, find themselves frustrated with the progress of the cleanup and generally dissatisfied with the performance of their consultant. However, many are reluctant to switch to a new consultant for a number of reasons and concern (e.g. USTCF reimbursement, regulatory compliance, transfer of historic knowledge, etc.). We understand the apprehension, though most of these issues can be addressed quite easily by a qualified consultant, with very little time required by the claimant. The following are some frequently asked questions that we have compiled from several individuals responsible for site cleanup at properties in various phases of investigation and cleanup.
 

 

1. Will the funding from the USTCF be affected?
Your funding from the USTCF will not be affected at all. Changing consultants does not affect your status with the Fund or your eligibility. Stratus is very familiar will the necessary procedures associated with transferring consulting responsibilities to the newly assigned consultant, and has made the process with the USTCF seamless.

2. What will happen to the money that the USTCF owes me on the last reimbursement request submitted?
Payment will proceed as it has in the past (i.e. all pending payments from the USTCF will be issued in your name). Once you receive your payment you can pay your former consultant, as you have previously. We will research, track and provide you with an approximate date of payment for your last reimbursement request (RR).

3. What do I do if the former consultant invoices me upon work stoppage and expects payment immediately?
We have successfully helped property owners communicate and negotiate with their former consultants to honor their original payment terms and conditions. Additionally, the reimbursement time for the USTCF has greatly improved over the last four months, with payment typically occurring within three months.

4. How do we submit the final invoice from the former consultant to the USTCF once they are no longer the current consultant?
Outstanding invoices from the former consultant can be submitted as a separate RR to the USTCF or can be included in the RR containing both the former and new consultant’s invoice.

5. Am I bound by a contract to the former consultant?
All contracts and agreements, used by any reputable company, include language allowing either party to sever their business relationship based on cause (e.g. performance, conflicts, etc.). Given that the former consultant is being dismissed because their performance is not meeting your expectations, you have a legal right to select a different consultant that you believe will provide a better service.

6. When is the best time to transfer the project to the new consultant, and what if the old consultant is in the middle of performing field work or preparing a report?
Usually, the decision to retain a new consultant is due to the lack of performance or capabilities of the old consultant. However, there may be conditions that warrant immediate dismissal because of very poor work quality or excessive spending. Other times, they may be conducting a phase of work or task that they are very capable of performing on time and on budget, and therefore should be allowed to complete that effort. In general, once the decision is made to hire a new consultant it is best to work with the new consultant to identify the best time to transfer the project and to help coordinate the transition.

7. How do I inform the current consultant to stop work and that I have chosen to hire a new consultant?
This can be done in writing, or verbally if you are comfortable communicating this news to the consultant. But regardless of your working relationship, it is prudent to document your decision and formally request stoppage of work and submission of project files. We have created examples of such letters that present this request, which may be useful to assist in drafting your notification letter.