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I only have a verbal hosting agreement in place with a customer. Unfortunately the relationship has deteriorated to the point of no return, and I'd like to end the hosting agreement and hand them over the root password. This is a virtual dedicated server I pay for, and then they pay me.

They are fine with this, but the problem is I don't trust this client even a little bit. Can I get them to sign something saying they release me from liability to changes made on the server once I give them the password? How is the root password usually given to clients who request it while making sure they don't come back later on and blame you for breaking the server? Does simply the act of giving them the root password infer that you are handing over complete control and thus complete responsibility?

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This probably belongs on webmasters.stackexchange.com. You also might want to clarify in your question what the exact current situation is - ie, is this your physical server? –  GrandmasterB Feb 7 '12 at 20:11
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You'd better ask a lawyer. –  Adam Crossland Feb 7 '12 at 20:11
    
I'm not a lawyer and all that but "only a verbal ... agreement" is often a binding contract and, if I remember my case law and it hasn't changed lately, even a pattern of activity that has the earmarks of a contracted obligation becomes one at some point. It's all quite complicated so I'd suggest you visit a real contract lawyer for a consult, he will quickly help you sort out the issues and decide on a sane and objective path of action. Since the client is willing advise your lawyer that this is a friendly exchange and not an adversarial relationship. –  Patrick Hughes Feb 7 '12 at 20:20
    
You could always set the password to expire NOW, so it will have to be reset upon the next login. Assuming it is them who logs in next, then this should help clear you of liability (after all, you no longer have the password to the server). –  Craige Feb 7 '12 at 21:04
    
Hi landonz, this is off-topic here: we're checking to see if there's a better fit elsewhere on the network for it. –  user8 Feb 7 '12 at 22:01
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closed as off topic by GrandmasterB, World Engineer, Walter, Matthieu, Mark Trapp Feb 7 '12 at 22:01

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2 Answers

Contact the hosting company, ask them how to transfer the VPS to your client. Add a statement that you want them to reset the password on behalf on the client when the transfer is completed. There may be a service fee but your client can pay for it.

That way the ownership (and billing) is transferred to your client so the hosting company can easily support them in the future, plus you go on the record for requesting the password change.

Or, download the site files/configuration etc and send them to client for them to install on their own new server.

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+1, I think this is the surest way to make it unambiguous. –  GrandmasterB Feb 7 '12 at 20:59
    
+1 for making it so you COULDN'T fix problems, even if they wanted you to. Cut yourself out of the loop entirely. –  Dan Ray Feb 7 '12 at 21:57
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When you give him the password, at the very moment, tell him to change it and give him instructions on how to do that.

(If you can force it be changed on next log in, all the better)

Honestly, I think you are worrying over nothing, If he accuses you of tampering, ask him to produce the server logs proving it, or STFU.

Lastly, If you don't have a written contract simply telling him "we are done" is enough to rid yourself of the "responsibility.". If you do, you will need some other document amending the original contract releasing you both of your obligations. (Here consult a lawyer)

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