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Mechanic'c Lein or Headin to court!!

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by mower_babe, Jun 30, 2003.

  1. mower_babe

    mower_babe LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 790

    Hi, I really respect all of your opinions and I need some input here. And I already expect to get hammered b/c I didn't have a contract...but I need to know where to go from here.

    OK-I have mowed for this lady several times-she was going through a seperation (one of many) and He had the lawn mower at his girlfriends house. Well, we mowed it and she is satisfied and decides to be a long term customer. Several weeks pass, no probs. Two weeks ago, I get home after we mowed her property and there are two messages on the machine. The first was at 2pm and it was her saying that she did not want us to mow anymore-that she got her lawn mower back..The second message at 4pm - was her bitc*ing me out that she is looking out her window and we are mowing her lawn. We are very scheduled and she always knew about what time we would be there (almost to the minute) If I had gotten the message prior to mowing - I wouldn't have, of course.

    So, that night I go out there with the last months bill and the current mowings on there and hand it to her and tell her that I am sorry about the misunderstanding and I can tell right there that I am not gonna get my money without a fight. She got back with her husband and at that time, they were unloading their mower from his truck. I thank her for her business and leave. Basically, they got back together for the umpteenth time and I am gonna get stuck .

    So, I send her a certified letter last week telling her that since she has elected not to pay me, I have elected to take legal action by this Wednesday 5pm, if no payment was received- and yes, the bills explain all this on them. I have taken a person to small claims before for like...$600 or so, but the guy admitted that he owed me and there was no discussion. With this woman...I do not know if I can put a "mechanics lein" on it or if I would be better off risking it in court. I saved the messages, but I am not sure if they will benefit me or just prove that she cancelled service, even if it was too late.

    Whew..sorry so long...anyway, have you guys dealt with this and what should i do?

    Thanks guys:(
  2. Turf Medic

    Turf Medic LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,073

    Small claims court. There is an article in this months PRO magazine, read through it rather quickly but I believe it mentioned that it is hard to put a mechanics lien on a person's property for maintenance type of services. Apparently according to the article for work to qualify for a mechanics lien you have to do something that improves the value of the property IE landscaping, retaining wall, fence, etc. Evidently mowing, trimming and the such just don't qualify.
  3. polecat63

    polecat63 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,655

    Well, i'm not sure what your states laws are but Virginia has a "gentleman's agreement" law. Meaning a handshake is as good as a contract. A little tough to prove, but it is actually quite helpful. It works like this...If someone orders a service they have to pay for said service. If they ordered a service with the intent not to pay they are now guilty of a misdemeanor and in Va they will do jail time until the outstanding debt is paid. Also, in Va lawn maintenance and landscaping fall under the scope of home improvement so you can put a mechanics lien on property here. That only really works if they intend to sell the property anytime soon. You may not be able to collect for the last mowing, but she owes for the prior services. Take her to court and get paid. IO find that most of my dead beats pay when they get the court notice.
  4. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Posts: 8,745

    I would first have your lawer type of up something and send it to her...if still no response then I would take them
  5. mower_babe

    mower_babe LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 790

    I had thought about that, b/c we are pretty tight with our lawyer. Currently working on projects for him and mowing his lawn. Hate to bring him in - Maybe he would - It is just hard to weigh the numbers...Lawyer at $150.00/hr. Court at $78.00, which if I win - then it is covered. Mechanics lein, if possible, $34.00 and lawyer fees to prepare. Maybe, i will get lucky and they will pay by Wednesday...doubt it.

    Ya know, it is hard, b/c this is such a small town and she is a teacher and you wonder what the consequences of pursuit will be for my children when they are older...you think about those things...not to mention my reputation...never want to come off as a bitc#. I guess I would rather be a paid bitc#!
  6. Gr grass n Hi tides

    Gr grass n Hi tides LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,020

    How much is she into you for? Like you said, weigh the payoff vs. the time and money you have to put into it. Proceedings can be time consuming even if you have an attorney handle it for you. You could be spending time in the field earning money.

    In NC small claims court is just like district or superior court in that you file a simple "complaint" more or less alleging what you want to allege in order to make your case. At the office, we sometimes send a "last chance letter" to insurance carriers stating "enclosed please find a draft copy of the complaint we are prepared to file in connection with the above referenced matter, together with a copy of my client's medical records and bills........this is a situation of clear liability in which your insured _______ (fill in the blank for what they did wrong)......I feel that we can resolve this matter amicably and avoid protracted litigation......please contact me after you have reviewed this material so we can discuss this matter further.......I look forward to your response.......if I have not heard from you by ______ (fill in the date) I will assume you are not interested in resolving this matter and be left with no alternative but to file suit."

    That will build a fire under there.

    You could probably do this on your own and avoid paying an attorney. If you walked into your local magistrate's office they would probably give you a go-by complaint (or whatever a pleading is called in your area).

    If you let this matter go (assuming not a whole lot of money is involved) after, say for argument sake the "last chance letter" reaps no reward, then at least you can put the matter behind you. Sometimes there's a lot to be said for that. I wouldn't worry about your rep. She is not going to run around bragging about stiffing you if you let the matter die. On the other hand, if you battle her in court she will have a conversation piece at tea time no matter the outcome.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword.
  7. mtdman

    mtdman LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,137

    Show up at her house and ask her why she hasn't paid. Tell her you will taker her to court if you don't get the check right then and there. Show her any court papers you might have.

    I had a woman who owed me over $250. She claimed her boss at work was bouncing her paychecks. Can she have a little time to pay? I gave her 2 weeks, and stopped mowing her until I got the money. On the 2nd week I showed up to mow a neighbor and she had roofers putting a new roof on. I immediately knocked. She had a livingroom full of friends, and I very loudly announced how much she owed and that she would be taken to court if she didn't pay then and there. She got very red and ushered me out to her porch where she proceeded to write me a check, complaining the whole time about her boss bouncing checks, etc. I pointed out she had money to get a roof, and that I hadn't been paid in 2 months. She got really mad and said "THen why don't you just stop mowing me?!" I said "I did, 2 weeks ago" and pointed to her very long grass.

    After I got the check, I went around to the roofers and informed him that he needed to get paid if he already hadn't because she was a deadbeat. I then went and mowed the neighbor, and watched as the roofer packed up his stuff and left. I took satisfaction in knowing I totally ruined her day. Then I went and deposited the check, and it did clear!
  8. CO.d 502nd

    CO.d 502nd Banned
    Posts: 288

    Ive found that nine out 10 times a good registered letter with words like lien,put it on your credit report featured prominently they send the money pretty quick.
  9. Toroguy

    Toroguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,075

    Harass the bejesus out of her.

    Court and all the Lawyer fees will destroy the small claim.

    Dirt bags are dirt bags, treat them with...respect....

    Edited violation of Lawnsite.com Posting Guidelines
  10. Rustic Goat

    Rustic Goat LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,194

    You've never said what the dollar value of this is, trying to read between the lines and guess, is it about $180.00 ? Whatever the amount, is it worth your time, effort, and screwed mental state, cause you won't be able to let it go until it's run its course in court. OR, can you just get a mental picture of her stuck in a toilet, and your hand on the lever, and flush the whole experience from existence.
    If so, just chalk it up to experience. Find Mammy Yokum, and have her put the evil eye on her.
    Each state has have its own laws pertaining to liens, even if you were to get one, isn't all they have to do is go down and post a $20. bond, and that basically puts it in limbo?

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