Strange non-payment issue

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by topsites, Sep 26, 2006.

  1. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    One of my first-day (been with me since day one) customers has fallen behind on payments, not too severely but enough to stress the policy to the point of service interruption (for long-term customers, a 10% rule applies: Whatever checks they have cleared to date, they are allowed to fall behind up to 10% of that total).

    So anyway, I've left a couple of bills that disappeared (I mean they're not on the door) and the last time I sent a letter informing her that service was being interrupted and unless at least half the balance was paid, it would not resume. The letter was sent about 2 weeks ago, the balance has been due since at least July but I also caught an unpaid cut from May... And yes, this lady had a habit of skipping a payment (or three) a year hoping I would not notice but for the past 1-2 years she was really good about it cauz I got on her and then it was no problem but anyway ...

    The mail is obviously being picked up ...
    Her car that broke down 1-2 years ago is still in the driveway, as are various artifacts such as trashcans and an older bbq grille ...
    And this is not to say I ever saw her frequently before (I didn't), but I have not seen skip or trace of her in 2-3 months and in the past week I made a point of googling over to her house as the driveway is visible from a main thoroughfare I use frequently, and even thou I'm checking on an almost daily basis at various intervals (including later at night), her 'working' car is never in the driveway.

    So... I mean, I hate to think like this but did she die? And if so (or if she moved or whatever), what would be my best option(s) at this point, how could I go about finding out where this person is, or what has happened? Sure would hate to go through a collections procedure on someone who passed away, if that were the case, it is ok, i mean, but then i dunno... just strange...

    It's not that I don't already know I may never see my money, that's not such a big deal, I'm just kind of wondering what I might can do next... especially if someone has experience with this, that would be helpful.

    thanks in advance
  2. 1MajorTom

    1MajorTom Former Moderator
    Messages: 6,073

    have you tried to phone her? does she still have a working number?
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    On this note, I got another question (and yes this has happened to me before as well):

    Call this strange issue 2:
    - Current customer moves away without notice and new owner takes residence but says not a word to you as you visit 2-3 times and service the property, leaving bills and all... Yeah, until YOU catch on, finally ... Then they always hide whenever you drive down that road or whatever, sure nobody ever answers the door should you knock or ring, even if they're home.
    IS the current resident responsible, and if not, then who is?
    And again, what to do, an Ncoa?
    (National Change of Address, it's a locator of sorts).
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Never occurred to me because we never did it like that before, but I will try that tomorrow, that's a great idea, it's in the phonebook (yes I already checked so I could get full name and address lol).
  5. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    You should change your policy, like ASAP.

    Never would I let a regular residential get that far behind 'just because'.
    I have a couple that lag around now and again, not really meaning to.
    But I'd suspend service long before I let it get that far.

    I have this big (financially) commercial account that's about to drive me batty this season though. Sure it's there fault... but at the same time, it's also mine too for entering into this particular arrangement and the agreeing to do some additional services billed separately. Been in this too long and know better.
  6. DLCS

    DLCS LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,386

    WTF, How about knocking on the front door or calling her?
  7. Josh.S

    Josh.S LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,085

    2 years ago this same thing happened to me... i had been mowing the guys yard for 2-3 years, he was about 50 or so... super nice fellow... i was very young when i started, told him i would do it for $10, he said he would pay me $15.. and then he ended up paying me $20 per time.. which is about what i would charge now for that small of a lawn..

    but anyhow this same thing happened to me and he died :cry:
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Well I called today, got the answering machine so I left a polite message indicating who I was and that she needed to call me so that we could work on resolving this delinquent account issue. Yes of course I knocked on the door before, she's just never there, which for this customer is not entirely unusual either, but I usually do see my checks...

    But something strikes me funny, if the answering machine is online and a message with her voice playing, that to me is different from the mail being picked up (as a caring relative might be doing so). Either way, even if she passed away or whatever, I think in a few days after I wait for the call that I don't expect to get, I will have little choice but to follow the path of collections.

    As for the money, this is a low maintenance account, we all have them, I have more than a few... Small yard, takes 20 or so minutes most of the time, been getting $30 for it but if it gets cut 10 times / year, the lady spends maybe 300-400 / year so I figured by the 10 percent rule she can fall 150 behind, and she's 120 bucks in the red... Like I said, to me it's not that big of a deal.
    But I'm not letting it go any further, I do feel I've let it go far enough and can not see myself cutting the grass again without some form of payment (at least half, I say - and more the next time).

    Of course I am still not sure what the deal is, but more and more I suspect some form of foul or funny play.

    p.s.: In the case of someone dying, I have absolutely zero problem writing off any monies owed at that time. Death or dismemberment or paralysis (from the neck DOWN only) is the ONE excuse that I will allow my customers for not paying their bills, not to be funny but I've heard a few good ones over the years, at least with death I know it ain't fake.
  9. lsylvain

    lsylvain LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 779

    You might want to go online and see if the tax records have been changed. Perhaps she did kick the bucket or move and if that is the case it should show in the tax records. I know that when my step father in law passed a couple years back his sons didn't worry about anything like that they just went to the funeral and are just now dealing with the estate stuff and it has been over 2 years.

    Or heck check the newspapers for death notices. lol
  10. RonB

    RonB LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 427

    If your local paper is online, check the obits. Maybe ask a neighbor.

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