Help!!! I need some advice on $ collection

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by alot2lurn, Sep 30, 2006.

  1. alot2lurn

    alot2lurn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 65

    This is my first year in the lawn and landscape business,and I do it part time.I don't usually deal with contracts unless requested by a customer.I'm not naive,but maybe a little to trusting,and so far with the exception of one customer I have'nt had any problems.A little background I mow this customers yard for the price of $135.00 first mow was $180.00 he paid me $200.00.Property is expensive here in Northern VA and he owns 20 acres with a 3500 sf house pool ,play ground ,basketball court probably worth $1.5 mil. or so_Other than mowing he requested mulching ,leaf removal,gutter cleaning,pruning etc.So I thought cool 5 min. from the house well off easy going customer with a ton of work at our agreed upon price of $45.00 per man hour.Well- I have'nt been able to get in touch with him for over 2 months after he accumulated a bill of over $600.00 with the exception of when I handed him the first bill ( he asked at that time if he could mail me the payment because he had his business check book at his office ) I called the #'s he gave me prob. 50 times literally (no response) he told me early on he gets about 300 voice mails a day in his line of work and cant possibly check them all. For his second notice I handed it to his wife 1 month ago ( no response).I'm going to drop off one more notice advising him he has 1 week to pay his debt or else There will be legal action taken.My question is and especially for you LCO's in VA but open to all- what are my options ? small claims court?With the info. I've given what are my chances of collecting ? What's it cost to do that in VA? How well does a verbal contract hold up in court? I have'nt done any work there for almost two months and informed his wife that was due to lack of payment and my unsuccessful attempts to contact him.Sorry for the length of this post there's a lot to explain here.Any help or advice would be appreciated , with the exception of busting my 00 about the lack of a contract.The bills I gave him were itemized bills the second stating it was his second notice.
     
  2. QualityLawnCare4u

    QualityLawnCare4u LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,758

    I just went threw this same crap. I dont know about VA but in Georgia a verbal agreement is binding. However, proving it is another thing! Get a signed contract/workorder to cover your arse from now on. Usually when you threaten with legal action or my favorite is to let them know you are going to put a lien on their house this usually gets their attention. Good luck and hope you get it! I have made this mistake several times and learned well from it. Also is a good idea to get half up front when there is material involved. Easier to eat labor than materials!
     
  3. dbc45420

    dbc45420 LawnSite Member
    from ohio
    Posts: 21

    In Ohio you can do a mechanics lien on there property for $20 dollars, in Dayton anyhow. Forms are available at office supply stores and just fill it out, notarised, and take to county building. Its actually pretty easy. I think they get notified by certified mail.
     
  4. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    And if you don't have proof that you did the work and tried to collect the other party can sue the he!l out of you and will win.

    This same subject was brought up word for word in another thread and heres my reply. Try it and you then have the option of a lien

    http://www.legaldocs.com/index.htm

    find a demand for payment letter and send it registered mail with a return reciept. Then you have proof you at least tried to collect
     
  5. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,163

    Go at night and knock on the door when the husband is home. Find out where he works and go visit him at work if you have to. Go to the house and if wife is home tell her to get check book and write you a check period...
     
  6. HOOLIE

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,981

    Filing in small claims in VA is around $30-$35, and you tack that onto the total they owe you. But first I would stay aggressive with this guy...sounds like a face-to-face collection might get the job done.

    If you do small claims just call the courthouse in the county his property is in and they can instruct you on the procedure.
     
  7. alot2lurn

    alot2lurn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 65

    Thanks for the replies,I have been by this guys house 4 or 5 times since his last notice.Caught his wife home once.I would love a face to face with him but he and his wife said he often does'nt get home til after midnight.He's a publisher,head hunter,consultant and motivational speaker so he's pretty busy.They have 4 kids and I can't see dropping by that late.You cant see his house from the road either .He lives on a long private drive through a woods.I thought about showing up at his work but if he's really trying to avoid me something tells me I'd get to know the lobby pretty well.And as for his wife ,and this to me is kinda wierd she did'nt even know I was'nt being paid ,what my $ rate was for my services the extent of work that was requested nothing.Just that I'd stopped showing up to mow.When I informed her showed her a copy of the itemized bill and said it had been a month and a half since I'd gotten paid she was shocked and informed me that she would pay it if she had it but she does'nt control the money and ask me to not say we had spoken . She also agreed that he is really hard to get in touch with and seemed truly embaressed by it all.With that I sealed the bill in an envelope as if to say she'd never seen it being sure to include an extra envelope with my return adress .This is really a strange situation I dont know what he's got goin on and dont care at this point I just want to get paid and let some other sucker deal with him.By the way olderthandirt the previous posting was me someone informed me I posted in the wrong forum for this question.I'm going to try the registered letter thing if that does'nt work I'll haul his a$$ to court.Man this sucks, on the surface this job/property had a lot of potential.
     
  8. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,163

    Bullcrap! The wife has money... I would go back and tell her let's go to the ATM, or to whip out her checkbook. She doesn't handle the money.... How in the hell is she supposed to buy groceries?

    I would go to this guys work too. 600$ is alot of money to not do what you can to collect.

    Does he has some nice patio furniture? a nice BBQ grill? Go by and take that stuff, better than nothing right? :)

    People like this make me want to take spray paint and paint a message in the road in front of the house to warn other lawn services, and to maybe fill a super squirter gun with round up and write the guy a reminder he owes money in his front lawn.....

    Since you stopped cutting, has the lawn been cut????????????
     
  9. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900


    The mods ought to delete this stupid post!
    You know for a fact the wife has money? and you would tell her
    your real close to extortion
    But if that fails your advise is to
    Now your telling him to steal.

    Its jerk bags like you that make it more difficult for legitamate businesses to collect whats owed to them. :dizzy: :dizzy: :dizzy:
     
  10. PMLAWN

    PMLAWN LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,535

    Bummer for you, Hard to deal with it sometimes, You have to make it important for him to take action.
    $600.00 is a lot to you but may be nothing to him. He also may not even realize that it has been so long. I know it may be hard to think about but for very busy people weeks can disappear like minutes, ( not that that makes it right) So yes, use the mail with signed recite, tell about your need to receive payment on time to insure "your" business success and than explain that your next step will have to be legal action. This may be enough to kick him in the butt and pay up.
    Always stay professional, Never berate, and keep a paper trail.
    Rule of Law--"He with the most notes wins"
    Good luck with it.

    Or just call for BG and his shovel:laugh:
     

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