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Got Court Judgement! Small Claims. Now what???

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by JimLewis, May 16, 2008.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,840

    So typically I am not for going after money people owe me. We'll try to collect ourselves and usually just drop it after a while. 90% of our lawn care clients are on AutoPay anyway, and the rest who pay via monthly invoice, we hardly ever let them get past 1 or 2 months before we terminate service. But one fell through the cracks last year and ended up owing me about $1800.00.

    I was very polite and tried to collect in every way possible. Our repeated invoices were always ignored. When I would call, they'd slam the phone down on me, when I stopped by they'd slam the door on me or shout at me. So finally I decided this year to take them to small claims court. Well, they never responded to it so today I filed for a default judgement. That default judgement will be signed by a judge within a few days then I can start collections.

    So woo-hoo! Chalk one up for the LCO. But now how do I collect? I am done dealing with these people nicely. I want to play hardball. I know where they bank and have their bank account number. How do I go about garnishing money once I get the final default judgement signed? Anyone with experience in this?

    I don't really want to hire a company to do this for me. I don't want to lose 50% to some collection firm. I'd rather just do it myself.

  2. Nosmo

    Nosmo LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,216

    I worked in a Court Clerk's office over 20 years before retiring. When you get your journal entry of judgment (judgment is correct) go to the clerk's office and file for a garnishment on their bank account.

    The cost will be added to the amount owed you and the clerk will advise you how to have the garnishement summons served. In Oklahoma the bank will advise them of the summons and they have a short time period to file a hardship claim.

    If either of both of them are working you can garnished their paychecks. If he is self employed you can file for an asset hearing and he sure as hell won't like that one.

    Good luck
  3. Tinkerer

    Tinkerer LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 620

    Depending on the state, you can file a lein on most likely the property you mowed. They would not be able to sell it without paying you. You can possibly file a lein on vehicles or other possessions of theirs. I would call your states Attorney Generals office and ask. I'm impatient with non payers. Unless I know them rather well or know they will be on vacation for a month or so. My limit is about 2 weeks. Keep track of your time and other fees as they possibly could be added to the bill.
  4. naturescape

    naturescape LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,694

    I plan on taking a customer to court in the next couple weeks. He only owes $180.00 but I'm tired of deadbeats getting away with it. And he's nextdoor to 4 other customers, so it's time to make a point. He did not send in a contract to me. I should have known right there. From now on, no contract, no work.

    I think the court would decide in my favor anyway though.
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Yeah because even with the judgment they still don't have to pay...

    But some kind of a habeas some... I forgot what it's called, it involves the sheriff's office you basically go out to their location with a deputy and you start taking STUFF in exchange for what they owe at face value (but wait).

    First we still need the name of the procedure, but there is something like it.
    Then when you do get out there DO resist the temptation to take high dollar items such as TV's and computers... Doing so will certainly frustrate the deadbeats but luxuries are nothing we can't do without... Instead start by taking daily necessities such as silverware, glasses and dishes, the bed sheets and food and especially cheap stuff such as shampoo and soap as this adds little value to the bill and you can easily raid half the house in the process. Last but not least as the homeowner quickly realizes their stuff can't just be replaced in a single purchase and has to be replaced immediately, you either get paid OR you got yourself a bunch of stuff YOU can survive on yourself.

    Sick and tired of it myself.
  6. Turf Commando

    Turf Commando LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,186

    Small claims court is a joke, even if you won you loss. Just cause you have their bank number don't mean a thing, they can always bank somewhere else.
    Garnishing their check good luck they have to make over a certain amount before you get your cut .
    The morale of the story, is learn, move on...!
  7. zz4guy

    zz4guy LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 901

    If I may ask, why did you keep mowing until they racked up so much money? Either they have a huge yard or you let this drag on and on. Just curious why you kept mowing.

    Glad you got the judgement, but what if you wouldn't have got it? Or they're out the $$$. Thats why I usually cut my losses early if they aren't paying.
  8. slowleak1

    slowleak1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 532

    the more of you that cut your losses the more we get screwed.

    i believe he said this one fell through the cracks...
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    I know that too...

    But I also learned to chase these folks hurts business.
    Yep, ain't that some crap!

    We go get what we believe is rightfully ours.
    And what happens on the flipside is we semi-accidentally scare the whole herd,
    which includes the good ones. It's like a side effect, I know it's not intentional but
    that is what this BS does lol.

    So I still don't know the right answer, you have to kind of try and find your own here...
    The hard part is still the anger, boy oh boy.
  10. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,513

    Best of luck on this, Jim.

    Please, please, please, let us all know how this ends up.:)

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