I am going to small claims court

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Expert Lawns, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. Expert Lawns

    Expert Lawns LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,660

    Ok guys I have been trying to get payment out of an EX customer for 6 months now. I picked up the papers from small claims court today. I not only think I deserve this money, but I also think he deserves to pay it. It's the principal of the fact that he can't get away with this. I am asking any of you if you have experience with this. Here are the facts:

    1. He owes $180.00 for the services, and $162.00 in late fees. (15% for 6 months) $342.00 Total

    2. I had no contract signed.

    3. I have witnesses placing me there.

    Before you all start tearing me a new one for not using a contract, I just want you to know that I have already learned that lesson. Lets concentrate on the facts here. It will only cost me $25 to take him to court, plus a small judgement fee. I am not doing solely for the money. I want him to learn a lesson. Hopefully he will just pay up before court and this will be over. Many of you big companies will snicker at the fact that I'm doing this over $342.00, but that is a lot of money to me.

    Let me know your experiences with this. I appreciate it, thanks.
  2. John Gamba

    John Gamba LawnSite Fanatic
    from ct
    Messages: 10,812

    Go for it !! and good luck. it's when we do NOTHING that society spits on us. This (if you win) Will send a message to the hood to not rip you off:D
  3. WeatherMan

    WeatherMan LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 692

    Good luck but with out a contract you wont get the late fees your asking for.
  4. twins_lawn_care

    twins_lawn_care LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 932

    Glad you posted this expert lawns, as I am facing the same scenario. I also have no contract, only invoices. I recently sent a certified letter, which they refused to pick up 3 times, so I am going to take the same route you did I think.

    Good luck with it. I agree, we have to show that we are legit, and theft is theft, in our case theft of services, and the guilty should be held accountable.

    Let us know how it goes.
  5. James Cormier

    James Cormier LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Ma
    Messages: 1,217

    You wont get the late fee's,clerks or judges always throws that out.

    What type of service does he owe you for?
    (2 monthsmowing,fert?)

    Why wont they pay?
    Did you try to work out a payment plan with them?
    these are things the clerk will ask you
  6. Metro Lawn

    Metro Lawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,116

    Couple of things. First, I think that the "Gentleman's Agreement" is still legal and binding in Michigan. (verbal contract or agreement) Second thing may give you a problem. Your late fee of 15% per month is a bit high. Over 12 monthes this would equal 180% intrest. The law allows a maximum of 25% per year, or roughly 2% a month. If you had a flat fee late charge, that would be different.
  7. James Cormier

    James Cormier LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Ma
    Messages: 1,217

    Any good business should budget for bad debt.
    That way when all base's are run you just turn it over to a collection agency. They have much better success than small claims court. You get a % but thats better than 0

    Case in point, contractor I knew (plumber) took someone to court for $900.00, the court was in favor of him, so the customer told the court he could only pay $10.00 a month until the debt is paid. The court said okay(very common im told) and the plumber received 3 monthly payments then it stop. Went back to court to get payments started again, payments started for serveral months then you guessed it they stopped again. All this took 14 months, Since then I showed him how to budget for bad debt each year, He uses a collection agency that pays him 70%.

    You got to remember a collection agency Haunts people, much more of a hassle than small claims court
  8. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Messages: 4,899

    If you have'nt already filed the papers try this, add on IE $ 1000 for loss revenue [ you could have been mowing some place else]
    Small claims is usually to appease the 2 parties . The more you show in damages the more your likly to get. With the facts you presented you will be lucky to get anything the other parties can say that you agreed to mow for $2 a week and you have nothing to dispute it. [take in any contract of the same size prop that you have to show what you normally charge] So try to show as much damages as possable becuase the judje will probably just give you a % of what your asking for, they just want both parties to be happy and feel they won.

  9. MudslinginFX4

    MudslinginFX4 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,170

    I have several customers who owe me money from last year. While I have done everything I can to get the money from them (but go to court), I don't see the point in paying money to collect a couple hundred dollars from each customer. This is the bad part of the business that we must all expect. I can probably make more money then owed to me in the time I would try busting those crooks. Take the loss, and don't forget to write if off on your taxes.
  10. Expert Lawns

    Expert Lawns LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,660

    James, It was a total of 6 mowings at $30.00 each.

    Olderthandirt, if i ask for $1000 in lost revenue since i could have been somewhere else, then wouldn't i have to prove that i had another client lined up for $1000 worth of work, but instead i was mowing this deadbeats yard?

    The other idea i had was to keep the total to a minimum (just late fees and price of service) this way when he is served, there's a better chance that he'll cut me a check. not many people want to go to court. For a large sum of money, he'll be more tempted to fight it.

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