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Taking Customer to Court.

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by PerfiCut L&L, Oct 28, 2005.

  1. PerfiCut L&L

    PerfiCut L&L Senior Member
    Messages: 178

    Whats everyones experience or take on filing suit against a customer for money owed?

    Generaly Im not the one to jump right into legal actions or such. Matter of fact, I offer my customers flex-pay on services they want but dont have the money for. As long as theirs an attempt to make payment, or some form of inflow coming in for it, Im ok with that.

    I have a customer who signed up for lawn service in the spring, which included spring cleaning (8hrs), Mulch(15yards), and weekly cuts at $75 per cut. In all, his contract was for nearly $5k. He started out by giving us an advance of $1500. Once that money was used up, I started sending month bills. Ended up getting the run around from his wife.... "oh, we got your bill and my husband took it to work with all the others to pay..." After a month of no payment, a reminder and a second bill was sent out. Soon after services were suspended and another letter/invoice mailed. Communications then completed ended. Its been nearly 4 months now.

    At this point, all I want is the $ for the work we performed to date that was not covered in the initial $1500.

    For the lousy $25 Im considering taking him to small claims court. Ive been told you can get good results this route. My guess, is once the customer gets the summons , he'll put a check in the mail.

    What are your thoughts.
  2. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    It will come down to this - Is it worth the time, expense and hassle to POSSIBLY get SOME of the money owed? The court may award you damages or what's owed, but that still doesn't get you the money. You may then need to go back to court to show that he didn't comply with THAT judgement order. Even if you go to Small Claims Court, you will have significant investment of time and emotional involvement.

    The company that built my house didn't settle charges and didn't provide some of the items agreed on. The total owed me was $2500. After two years, three lawyers and over $1,000, I still wasn't close to getting to court. I finally said "forget it" - it was going to cost more than I'd get. By that time, I was going "on the principle of the thing" and had to step back to see what was happening. Eight years later, there has never been a settlement of charges.
  3. stumper1620

    stumper1620 Senior Member
    Messages: 222

    I have one that is running 90 days over due with no contact even after sending letters explaining all I need is a phone call or something to show a good faith effort, she signed an agreement and has not fulfilled any part of it.
    the next notice to be mailed will be by certified mail, in that invoice will be a notice of intent to file a lean on her home if payment is not recieved within 10 days, i will then go to the clerks office in her county and file a lein, she will not be able to sell her home without paying the debt.
    less expensive, may take years to be paid or she may send a check right away, never know, I think the threat of a lein will get quicker results.
  4. PerfiCut L&L

    PerfiCut L&L Senior Member
    Messages: 178

    a lein? hmm... now that might be the ticket. Ill try the $25 small claims court. The customer I know wont want to spend time dealing with this in court. His time is worth much mor than he owes. However, a lein would piss him off I know.
  5. bounty21061

    bounty21061 Member
    Messages: 37

    We file leins all the time on people that owe as money but its not for anything like this it for bailbonds then we file to have the money taken out of their paycheck we get about 25% of their pay until it's paid in full just get your lawyer to send a letter he might not charge you at all plus if they don't pay it can go to a collections agency and they will report it on the credit report people hate that and it might not cost you anything for the collections agency they add the fees on their balance owed
  6. Dwan

    Dwan Senior Member
    Messages: 879

    Your thoughts about small claims court is in the right direction.
    That is exactly what it is there for. Also you can add the $25 filing fee back to what he owes you. It should only take a few hours your first time and about 1 hour after that to file.
    You do not need any legal advise nor can you have an attorney represent you in Small Claims Court. Court time will very depending on ware you are and how full the court is. That is if it goes that far. Usually the Judge will ask the 2 party's to work it out before the trial. if they cant then he will decide the outcome. If you do work out an agreement the Judge will look it over and if it is in your favor he will issue a judgment in your favor. with that judgment in hand the looser must keep his end of the bargen or the winner can use the judgment to 1. file a lean on his home or most any other tangible property. that includes any money he has in the bank. You may also attach equipment, cars, trucks, boats, guns, or most anything as long as it is not needed to sustain his livelyhood. ( if he only has 1 car and needs it to work, tools needed to perform his job, etc.) anything you attach can be sold at public auction to satisfy his dept to you. anything over what he owes to you must be returned to him.
    Any costs to preform any of the above is added to the judgment.

    It took longer for me to type this out then it did for me to file my last small claims court case. and it was settled before it went before the judge for more then was originally owed to me.
    In my state Small Claims court can recover up to $7500 for you. If there is more owed then that you must file a civil court case or forgive anything over the $7500 cap. Civil cases can go as high as you want but will probably cost a lot more and should have the help of legal advise.

  7. SnowDozers

    SnowDozers Member
    Messages: 86

    We had one customer that did not want to pay last year but would call up and complain all of the time that there was a ice clump or small windrow in some location of his junk rutted up gravel trailer park. They racked up a bill of $850 before we stopped plowing for him. He called every time, we told him why we were not going to plow there... sent him 7 invoices contacted him via phone 7 out of 16 times and he still niglected to pay. Their company name was Lavant and Lavant and I bet you can guess what they do for a living. Lawyers.

    We filed a small claims suit, and they promptly sent the payment and asked us to drop the suit.
  8. stumper1620

    stumper1620 Senior Member
    Messages: 222

    Update, last statement went out on the 15th with the threat of collections,
    check came in the mail today with a extra amount she added on her own for late fee.
    extra 50 bucks, now I don't know if I should accept the extra 50 or refund it to her. I know she can't afford it. her father paid the bill.
    what say you?
  9. Dwan

    Dwan Senior Member
    Messages: 879

    Keep it you earned it. If you give it back they will think it is ok to be late. Just treat that customer extra special for the added check.
  10. stumper1620

    stumper1620 Senior Member
    Messages: 222

    Thats what my wife said.