Small Claims Court payment

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by lawnspecialties, Jun 27, 2006.

  1. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,513

    July 11 at 9:30 is my court date for my $520 claim (plus court costs) against a former customer. I have so much documentation, it really should be an "open and shut" case. My only concern is: If I do win, then what? These people live in a $250,000 house and haven't even paid their property taxes for the last three or four years. What if they have the attitude of "so what" for the court judgement. Where do I go, then?:confused:
  2. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,569

    The Law in NC is real clear that the court is only there to give a verdict in a Civil case. Then as far as the court system is concerned it is YOUR responsibility to collect on any Judgement, NOT the Courts, nor will they. In probably 75% of the cases in NC the Judgement is never collected on because the party is "Judgement proof", meaning they really have nothing to legally (that being the Key word in Civil Judgements, as they will have a lot of legal rights to protect property from execution seizure) seize to satisfiy the courts judgement. It sounds like this will probably also be the case in your case since they can't even pay their property taxes. With tax liens against their property, a lien on it will really do you no good either. Remember also, once the Judgement is entered YOU must seek a Execution of Judgement by the Sheriff which will also require that you pay additional fees for them to "try" and exectute the Judgement. The Wake Sheriff's Office has a team that, that is all they do. BUT before they can do anything the person you have the Judgement against has the right to file property that they feel is legally exempt from your Judgement. They have 15 days after Notice of Execution to do this. Also, as to the case itself, they probably won't even bother to show up in court, so you will probably get the Judgement pretty easily, but in reality all you may accomplish is that you waste half a day in court and another $90 or so filing the action to get nothing more in return than you have now. I do hope that isn't the case but I worked in law enforcement in Wake County for many years and saw 1,000's of Judgements.......most never satisfied.
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Once you get the judgement, you need to check on the how-to's and what-ifs but the easiest way would be to put a lien on their property for the amount.

    In some states this is called a Materialman's lien, it is the same as a Mechanic's lien, basically the day they sell their house, you will get paid because they can not sell while a lien exists. Also, they can not refinance while this lien exists, so it puts a damper on their spirits.

    Last but not least, I skip all that waste of time and money of going to court for that very reason: If they still don't pay, now I'm out of the court costs as well (which at least here in VA, you have to pay this upfront), not to mention HOURS of time on top of what they already owe, what a waste.

    I just take the whole thing to and get my Instant Collect Package and 10 minutes and 12 dollars later, I'm done with it.
    No going to court, no hassle, it's on their credit record and see ya.

    But regardless, I'm glad to see you're doing something about it, even if they never pay it still hurts them and it shows people that even the lawn boy (no offense) will do something to you if you decide not to pay... That's the part that aggravates me the worst.
  4. Frontier-Lawn

    Frontier-Lawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,949

    well in florida if you pay someones delinqent property taxes and if they dont pay you back within i think a year you now own there home.. but as topsites said use olddebts and a lein.
  5. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,513

    A lot of your last paragraph gets to the heart of it. They owe me $520. The small claims fee was $65 and I also paid another $15 for the sheriff's office to serve the papers. Since they wouldn't accept my last bill via certified mail, I figured they wouldn't accept a summons that way either. This brings it to $600 even.

    Yes, I may never get the money but it's just the principle of the matter. I'm trying to think of every way I can legally (and with some class) make their life hell when it comes to this whole issue.

    Get this, though. I still maintain their next door neighbor's yard. They are good people and even have have me on automatic bill pay with their bank. Well, the other day I'm blowing the driveway and here comes the defendant's husband. The whole contract, lawsuit, everything is with her. He tells me he thinks it's a good thing what I'm doing "cuz women don't know how to manage money". He also tells me "you and me, we're still tight. You still my boy". What a zero.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,981

    I wouldn't know how small claims in Virginia differs from NC, but from my experience, I've only ever had trouble getting paid from one customer out of maybe 25-30...the impression I always got was that these deadbeats didn't really think we'd take it as far as court, and when the judgement was rendered, we'd get paid. Or even more frequently, AS SOON AS THEY WERE SERVED the papers they would call offering to pay.

    Funny how most of them didn't show up for the actual trial but within a week or two they would send in a check...
  7. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,157

    dont forget that at least in florida, you were allowed to add on to the bill the court related costs (lost work, ect) and once you got judgement you began to collect like 18% interest, that was mandated. Then file the Lein, that money gets added to the tab as well.... I got stiffed on a 600 job and ended up with 1000 bucks in pocket 60 days later when the shmo tried to refinance.

    Boy was he pissed...So was I, I would have been more than happy to take his 600 when he owed it to me, but it was satisfying to get a certified check from the title copmany releasing the lein...
  8. Freddy_Kruger

    Freddy_Kruger LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,064

    I would classify that as a happy ending.
  9. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,206

    If he doesn't file on stuff like TV, microwave, etc can't those items be taken with the help of the sheriff.
  10. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,157

    A property sale/auction is always a possibility, but i think the tiem frame of getting stuff sold at auction woudl be a lot mroe tiem consuming, -plus then you have to be abel to prove ownership of property. Whats to stop them from giving items to their freind for "safe-keeping" so to speak.

    I had all but written off the lien. if igured that I'd never see the money befoer I left the state, so when I got the call from title company. it made my week... every time I drove by his house I had a grin on my face....

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