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Stop Payment on Check - is it illegal?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Jason Pallas, Apr 25, 2005.

  1. Jason Pallas

    Jason Pallas LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,325

    Got a quick question for those who know. Is it illegal to stop payment on a check FOR SERVICES once services have been rendered and accepted by the client?

    Here's the situation. Lady calls for a power-rake, we give her quote. She says fine, go ahead (shoulda listened to the little voices in my head that said this customer was going to be a PITA customer). We power rake the lawn. She looks at it, says it looks great, then writes a check for the full amount. A few days go by, she then decides that we should have cut her lawn and trimmed her hedges and washed her car and walked her dog and done her dishes (etc,.....) for the amount she paid for the power raking. She calls - says we ripped her off and threatens to stop payment on the check if we don't come back and do another $200 worth of work that she feels should have been included in the power raking. The story just goes on..... blah, blah, blah.

    Anyway, does anyway know what the legalities (or illegalities) are of stopping payment for services rendered? Theft of services? I know there's a statue that adddresses this - anyone know?
  2. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,569

    Yeah in that case it would be illegal in most any state to stop the payment. The only problem may be that unless you have a signed contract or copy of the work order or Estm is that if she claims your offer/estm included the other work (even though it in fact did not) and you didn't do it and she contends that she didn't get what she was suppose to. If you do have a signed copy as I'm sure you should then you have her dead to rights.
  3. Houston's

    Houston's LawnSite Member
    Posts: 25

    if u live louisiana u can presscharges for anything. where u live i have no clue.. but any way call a lawer they should tell u for free. :angry:
  4. Soupy

    Soupy LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,125

    Have you cashed the check?
  5. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    If you give her a quote over the phone,and accept an ok for work over the phone and do the work. without any piece of paper showing what work is to be done for what $ agreed upon,then I have no sympathy for you.This sounds fishy,In all my years in this biz I have never had a cust stop payment on a check for work I have done.Did you make clear to her what was included in your price?She has every right to stop payment for services rendered if she feels those services were not performed to her satisfaction.Why wouldent you have cashed the check or put it into your account after a few days anyway?Did you tell her you would come back and do something else then did not?I don't think your giving us the whole story here.
  6. rodfather

    rodfather LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,501

    In NJ, that would be called Theft of Services.
  7. nocutting

    nocutting LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 530

    Hello, over here we're supposed to wait 3 biz days after a signed contract for work? Its called a cooling off period, in case they change there minds?....I had that happen once with a "Senior" who had a "Daughter"[ it was the daughter], who thought we should give away all our services in order to get paid for the work that was already done!!!!!!!!!...Some people have few values, morals, integrity, In my case I sent a "Demand Letter" [ a notice provided by our small claims court]- They re-sent there payment, but at that point I could have asked the court to "Award Treble Damages" [ I let the client know that in the "Demand Letter"]....It all works out in the end. :)
  8. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,403

    If it was a check presented directly after the service, you can have her arrested if she cancels the check. It's the same as writing a bad check in the eyes of the law. Her only defense would be something like claiming she was defrauded. But she'd have to tell it to the judge after being booked.

    You might want to let her know that and save both of you trouble later.

    But of course they can't stop payment on a check already paid, so head to the bank.
  9. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Posts: 10,178

    rod is correct. my lawyer told me that a stop payment is a big legal matter, they can get screwed bad.
  10. Jason Pallas

    Jason Pallas LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,325

    Thanks guys - that's what I was looking for. Very helpful.

    BTW, Sheshovel - spare me the righteous attitude. I didn't run right to the bank and cash the check like a scrub. I've got a business to run, a legitimate one that makes deposits in a business account once a week like most other businesses. We don't normally deal with one-time only accounts for such small amounts ($165) - but she was a neighbor of another customer and it appeared to be quick/easy job at the end of the day. And, No - on a small work order like this, we don't write out a detailed work order or contract. In 25 years in business, we've never been stiffed like this. But, there's always the shameless old lady that'll rip you off blind if you let her. However, she didn't give the appearance - maybe if I had your vast experience and knowledge I could have seen this coming and could have avoided it all. I was too busy looking at the big picture. Eyes up front, pay attention grass munch.

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