Customer stiffed me

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by catslandscape, Apr 10, 2011.

  1. rain man

    rain man LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,794

    It is said that gypsies marked homes which were a soft touch. A system of marking for different reasons is an interesting idea. We can develop a code, shrouded in mystery...revealed in incremental layers to those who swear a sacred oath.

    Just a simple coloured dot from a can of marking paint in just the right spot (for example) will warn all that a particular "customer" doesn't pay their bills. Before long we will all have the pleasure of watching them mow their own grass for a we drive by and wave.

    But woe to the one who dares reveal the sacred code. Darkness and doom be upon them for three generations.
  2. RLS24

    RLS24 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,603

    Always have their signature somewhere. What I do to make things simple is on my copy of the estimate I give the customer (meaning NOT the one that has my notes with my costs and things they dont need to see on it), theres a small portion at the bottom that basically says sign here if you agree to have the above listed work done and in short it lists the customer's responsibility for payment. You have to be REALLY careful with the full maintenance accounts because of this exact thing, so make sure they ALWAYS sign a contract and make sure it has something about there is no cancellation so you don't get screwed out of money. I always try very hard to avoid breaking things up in monthly payments like that, lawn maintenance is fine but all other landscape, maintenance or cleanups are billed separately and payment is due at the completion of the job. I also require a deposit on any landscape job over $300 to cover my ass at least for the materials.

    If you go to court, its gonna get messy. They are gonna say how much has she paid year to date, and whats the total value of the job you just did and how much of that applies to what she already paid you for less the other services that were in those payments. Thats if it even gets to that point. You can show all the before and after pictures you want and all the previous billing statements and copies of checks she wrote you want, but unless you have a signature saying that she agreed to have exactly what you did done, then the court's defense is going to be "well prove that you didn't just show up off the street and do this job expecting to get paid for it after with no prior consent" and unfortunately for you, without a signature to terms, its going to be near impossible for you to prove that. You also have to look at what court is going to cost you. If you have a lawyer, thats a pretty penny, and time is money. Even your time as the business owner has to be considered because its time you could be out working. Weigh all that out and see if its worth your time, lawyers, court costs, etc. If this is just like a $500 trim/prune/weed/edge/mulch job, then cut your losses and move on. It'll cost you double that to go to court by the time you're all said and done. Cut your losses, learn from your mistakes. And I bet you'll have EVERY customer sign for EVERY service you do from now on because you'll never forget this.

    Getting screwed over is part of business. It doesn't matter if you're a multi-million dollar a year business or just starting out and cut 15 lawns, its gonna happen and you just learn from it. Good luck to you.
  3. Flatop

    Flatop LawnSite Member
    Messages: 236

    Same boat here as far as getting stiffed. Already sent certified mail, payment still has not been received, no emails or phone calls. Will be going to small claims court. Have contract, emails (where the member stated to come get the money only to stated he did not have the money) and phone records of trying getting in contact with this member regarding overdue payment. The amount due is really low but the main reason I am going after this one gentleman is that he gave my wife and I the run around when trying to collect at his property and most of all, he claimed to be a army veteran who served 7 years special forces. I gave him a huge discount as I always do to veterans of the armed forces. The second client (this client owes 2X's the amount then the army veteran) I did not collect since I have made a lot of money from them in the past.
  4. Patriot Services

    Patriot Services LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,274

    The fact you have a history from last year will play heavily. In civil matters proof does not have to be beyond shadow of a doubt. Not having a signed contract is not a deal breaker necessarily. If you did not take pics I suggest you sneak back and do so. Let her explain to the judge why she didn't pay for work that was performed. The fact the entire job was not completed is moot. If the job was obviously started but you were not allowed to complete it will factor in as well. Pay the small filing fee, have your day in court. File for the FULL amount of your agreement as long as it is under the threshold for small claims in your jurisdiction. It varies by state and circuit sometimes.
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