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Old 01-26-2004, 08:12 PM
DFW Area Landscaper's Avatar
DFW Area Landscaper DFW Area Landscaper is offline
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Need Advice - Install - Collecting

I need advice. If anyone has the patience to read this story, I appreciate honest advice. I made a ton of mistakes on my first landscape design/install and now I need good advice relative to my current situation.

I am in the landscape maintenance business. This lady flagged me down in traffic last July and wanted me to design a landscape for her. I drew up the plans, free of charge, and she agreed to let me do it. The agreement required a 50% down payment with 50% due within 30 days of completion. The plants came with a 12 month warranty. The price was $2,193.66 plus sales tax. Because she didn't have the money at the time, she said she would call me when she had the down payment.

Well, she called me in August and asked when I could get started. I told her I could start on the following Monday. She agreed to leave a check for $1,200 under the door mat Monday morning. When I arrived, the check was there. I made the mistake of assuming that if she was trusting enough to leave a check for $1,200 before I had done any work, that I wouldn't have any need to get a signed contract.

During the course of the installation, she agreed to let me install a low voltage lighting package for another $200.00, plus sales tax. Again, all verbal...nothing in writing.

When I installed the Pavestones, white scuff marks were left by the plate compactor. I kind of panicked when I first noticed them. I called the Pavestone people and they told me it was totally normal and that the scuff marks would fade with time. Being the idiot that I am, I pointed the scuff marks out to her and explained that the scuff marks should fade in time. She seemed ok with it.

Well, I finished the job on August 15th. She calls me back the following week and says that she just doesn't like the calladiums. I told her I'd gladly replace them with another variety. The calladiums were replaced on August 22nd. She seemed happy that day.

I sent her a bill for the balance due on August 25th for $1,373.19. The due date came and went, so on September 25th I sent her another bill with a 1% late fee. Nothing. So on October 2nd, I leave a note on her door asking her to call me about the install. On Friday, October 3rd, she calls me and she wants me to come meet with her at her house on Sunday evening. She says she feels as if she erred in her judgement to hire me. Anyway, I agree to meet with her.

When I get to her place on Sunday, I explain that I think the landscape looks great and that I'm proud of it. She mentions the scuff marks and I explain that I've been told by the manufacturer, Pavestone, that the scuff marks will fade. Then, she starts in with how she thinks I charged too much. I immediately said that if anything, I didn't charge enough. She looked amazed. Anyway, we go inside and I show her all my budgeted costs and actual costs. In the end, she agreed to the price but she couldn't pay. She didn't have the money. She promised to pay $500.00 on payday, the 20th. Well, on payday, she calls and she's had some banking problems. She can only pay $200.00. I get a check for $200.00 on the 28th.

I keep sending her monthly statements, and she never pays. Finally, I stop by her house and ring the bell on December 8th. The front door is open but she doesn't answer, so I leave. About 30 minutes later, she calls and starts in with the "error of judgement in hiring you" stuff again. She says she wants a discount for the scuff marks that have not faded. I ask how much, and she indicates that she wants to pay another $400.00 and call it even. At this time, the balance due was over $1,200, so she's talking about a discount of over $800.00. I told her that I might consider a small discount of $150 to $200 or so, but that if it comes down to it, I will be glad to buy another pallet of Pavestone and re-do the pavers. The conversation ended and I was supposed to call her back about the discount. I never did.

I get a check for $200.00 on December 19th. The balance due, as of today, 1/26/04, is $1,033.

I went by her house today to discus. She wasn't home, but I did notice that most of the ajuga has died. My guess is that it wasn't watered properly.

Anyway, I'll post the pics and if anyone has had the patience to read all this, please advise. I'm not sure if I should honor the warranty even though she hasn't paid me or if I should write the whole thing off to a learning experience or take her to small claims court or give her an $800 discount and honor the warranty or give her an $800 discount and explain that all warranties are null and void or ask her to accept a lower discount or...What the heck should I do?

Thanks,
DFW Area Landscaper

Last edited by DFW Area Landscaper; 01-26-2004 at 08:17 PM.
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Old 01-26-2004, 08:20 PM
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DFW Area Landscaper DFW Area Landscaper is offline
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Here is a good pic of the installation:
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Old 01-26-2004, 08:21 PM
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DFW Area Landscaper DFW Area Landscaper is offline
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Here is a close up of the scuff marks:
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Old 01-26-2004, 08:23 PM
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DFW Area Landscaper DFW Area Landscaper is offline
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When I went by today, the scuff marks are still obvious. If they've faded, I can't tell it for sure. They're still there. Honestly, I don't think they're going to fade anytime soon. The pic I took today is too large to show on this websight.

I do think a discount of some sort is in order, due to the scuff marks. If I'd been experienced, I would have known to place carpet on top of the pavestones before running the plate compactor. But I also believe that the detraction caused by the scuff marks to the entire setting is minimal...certainly not worth a 34% discount, in my opinion. Maybe 5 to 10% at most.

I'm thinking the fix for this is small claims court. Would love more advice here.

Thanks,
DFW Area Landscaper
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Old 01-26-2004, 08:30 PM
olderthandirt olderthandirt is offline
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If you have nothing written in a contract get what ever she will give you, tell her what ever it take to get some more $$$ out of her and then move on. No written contract you are both screwed but I sure would not be doing anything more. If you have no written contract don't waste your time with small claims court. Judjes don't like businesses with no contracts

Mac
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Old 01-26-2004, 08:34 PM
PLI1 PLI1 is offline
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look up legaldocs.com. You can make yourself up a free demand for payment letter. There's a point in time when Mr. Niceguy has to end and I think you've far reached that point. One thing I reccomend you should do next time is request 50% down, Net upon COMPLETION. Always have a signed contract. I would only warrantee your work after you are paid in full! You are $1000 bucks in the hole currently. Don't add to it. One thing that I do especially with women "since men and women are wired differently", I alway explain myself thoroughly more than once. I let the customer know exactly what is included, what isn't. Your signed contract should state no warranty work will be done until paid in full. If they need to think about it before they sign, give them the time. It will mean less headaches for you down the road. If all else fails with this woman, contact a collection agency and/or take her to small claims court. However your case will hold less ground without that signed piece of paper.
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Old 01-26-2004, 09:09 PM
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ElephantNest ElephantNest is offline
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The warranty goes into affect as soon as the balance is paid. Contract or not, you have a legal right to your money. A verbal contract WILL hold up in court. She never disputed how much she owed you, she just tried to juke you down some. For a very small fee you can take her to small claims court. No judge would expect you to redo anything if you haven't been paid.
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Old 01-26-2004, 09:29 PM
olderthandirt olderthandirt is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by ElephantNest
The warranty goes into affect as soon as the balance is paid. Contract or not, you have a legal right to your money. A verbal contract WILL hold up in court. She never disputed how much she owed you, she just tried to juke you down some. For a very small fee you can take her to small claims court. No judge would expect you to redo anything if you haven't been paid.
Nest, a verbal contract will hold up in court? Only if no one lies and if one parties trying to get out of paying do you really believe that they gonna tell the truth? DFW allready said that some of the pavers are scuffed so he files in court and she counter files becuase there scoffed, poor workmanship, A judje could very well award all her money back. And payment was withheld becuase of shoddy work. I would not take the chance for the little bit of money. I would meet with her and try to get another 1 or 2 hundred from her and then blow her off. If she would sue him at that point he could use the manufacturer statement that the scuff will where off. For DFW to file claim is one heck of a gamble, but to defend himself would be quite easy.

DFW I'm not saying you did shoddy work just playing devils advocate


Mac
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Old 01-26-2004, 09:57 PM
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ElephantNest ElephantNest is offline
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So you're telling me that judges deem all plaintiffs and defendants as honest? That's what court is about, to let someone unbiased make the decision. They know someone is lying 95% of the time. And YES, a verbal contract WILL hold up in court.

He offered to replace the scuffed stones as soon as he was paid. Shoddy work? I think not, things happen, and he was willing to stand behind his work and replace the stones in question.
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Old 01-26-2004, 10:14 PM
olderthandirt olderthandirt is offline
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wheres the proof that he offered to replace the stones as soon as he was paid? Judjes are very biased they figure you run a business you would have a written contract, here's a poor lady that knows nothing and a contractor comes in with out a contract. I'm just saying I would not take the chance of going to small claims court over it. I see more to loose than to gain. And if verbal contract were so good why would anyone write one up? There legal just not worth much.

Mac
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