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to sue or not to sue

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by suppo_1, Oct 21, 2003.

  1. suppo_1

    suppo_1 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    i need some guidance as to what steps i should take next. i recently had a cabin built in the north ga mtns and the back hill slop was about 20-25 degrees toward a flood plain. i called several local landscapers to go look at the property and give me estimates on 4 jobs i needed done (hydro seed about 5000 sq ft, cut in wood frame steps, about 25 of them into the slope,dig in 4 gutter drains about 60 feet, and ground prep for the hydro seed) i got phone estimates from 2 of them ( i live in va) and went with the one who seemed eager and had the time to start right away. total cost was going to be $4700. i sent him a $1000. deposit ( yes, no written contract, just verbal in the mountains) and he got the gutters dug in. a couple of days later i called him and told him not to hydroseed but to go ahead and do the steps. after a few more calls to him that went unanswered, his wife finaly called me and said he was going to not do anything more then just the gutters and he would return the $700 of the $1000. after 2 weeks and no money, i called him and he said that he didnt have the money but to trust him and he would send it to me when he could. that was 3 months ago, long story but here is my question, should i send him a letter requesting the return of my money and do it nicely or send him a letter with threats to take him to court and file complaints with BBB. what is your take on it ( besides me being naive and gullible) thanks
  2. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    Don't make threats that your not prepared to back up. You would have to probably take it to small claims in Ga. I would tell the guy he has x amount of time to return of part of my $$ he owes. If the guy doesn't have $700 when you originally asked for it he's not gonna have it now either but at least you won't be wondering if and when he will return it. Check with the BBB and see if he registerd with them if he not you can still file but it won't do much good. Check and see if he's bonded to work in the part of Ga. where he was doing the work and if he is go to the bonding agent. Other wise your probably out the $$$$

  3. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,366

    I would agree with a letter stating a specific due date. I would also state that if he did not comply that he would force you to persue other actions. Not sure about Va. but no contract would not get you far here. :cool:
  4. Randy Scott

    Randy Scott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,915

    Did you send him a personal check written in his name?

    Was it cashed by him?

    Hopefully this will give you something to work with if you need to go to small claims.
  5. The Good Earth

    The Good Earth LawnSite Member
    Posts: 171

    Ever heard the old saying : "You can get farther with a kind word and a gun than just a gun"?

    I would send him a stearn letter but not threatening. Remind him of the agreement and put some type of time table down. With no contract you have to rely on his honesty. If he doesn't come through then research every legal avenue possible. If that fails resort to vandalism!!!:D
  6. Turboguy

    Turboguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,966

    Hi Suppo

    It does not sound like you have a lot of documentation to support a law suit. My suggestion would be to send him a certified letter outlining everything and asking him to contact you within a certain time and either refund the money or to make firm arrangements or you will take legal action. Be sure you keep a copy of this letter.

    If he does not respond or send any payment go to the small claims court. It will only cost you a small amount ie $ 30.00 which is refunded from the judgement (assuming you ever get paid) If he contacts you and wants to work out some payments or the like, make sure you get something signed acknowlging that he owes you the money and what it was for, in case you have to go to court. If he does not show for the hearing you will get a defualt judgement which will mess up his credit for quite a while (it may already be messed up) I think the judgement stays in effect forever, until it is paid.
  7. KerryB

    KerryB LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 661

    To begin with I think the blame for this mess lies with you. You didnt bother to ask for references or a contract. You didnt ask to see some of his work.
    But on the other hand people like this give all of us a bad name. The fact that you paid him money up front and he cashed the check, the fact that he started the work should be enough to constitute a verbal contract and work in your favor. I would think that you have enough to contact the district att. in Ga, and prosecute him.
    Just as if I completed a job and the customer put a stop payment on the check is considered theft of services this is the same theft only in revearse.
  8. heybruck34

    heybruck34 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 300

    Honestly, how much do you think a cheap lawyer would cost? $100 an hour? I'm sure most are more than that. Plus your time, headache, and effort. Send your letters certified mail and try everything but the lawsuit.

    I personally don't think it's worth going after him legally for $1,000. Call it a lesson learned and check for references and verify the references.

    Sorry for your loss. Good luck with recovery.

    Also- IF ALL ELSE FAILS- be sure to send him a Form 1099 for the money. This gives the IRS notice that he received the money and they will be expecting him to declare it. It doesn't give you any compensation but at least you know he will have had to pay tax on the money- 15.3% Self Employment plus whatever his income tax rate is....

    "If I can't have it- no one will."
  9. suppo_1

    suppo_1 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    hey all- thanks for the great input and i will try the " gentler approach". great idea on the 1099 for the IRS!! i do realize much of the blame is mine but trying to get a landscaping job set up from 600 miles away is tough, and its the first time i have been burnt by one of the locals in the mtns, most do work on a handshake! thanks again to all for the input!

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