The problem with Contracts

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by topsites, Jul 17, 2005.

  1. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    First of all, a contract can mess you up as fast as what you had intended. The consumer can use a contract against you in much the same way you had planned on using it should the need ever arise. No matter how well planned, just when you thought your arse was covered, someone else finds the loophole.

    But that in and of itself is minor.
    Lets say someone doesn't pay / breaches contract and you take them to court:
    - You're going to CIVIL court, not criminal. Civil is exaclty that: All a very nice happy-happy thing, nothing seriously bad ever comes out of civil.
    - The money owed pays for services already rendered and does NOT cover all the time you'll spend in court. You are, in essence, wasting production time to potentially <-READ recover something for time already wasted.
    - You need to go to court at least three times (once to file the paperwork, again for the preliminary hearing and one more time for the actual case). That's for starters... Defendant has the RIGHT to postpone case one time for absolutely NO reason so in more than a few cases you get to show up a 4th time AND if you fail to show up even once throughout the entire ordeal, the case could be dropped. Meanwhile, the defendant does not have to show up even once if he/she doesn't feel like it: Defendant doesn't file paperwork, if defendant fails to show for the prelim, they notify defendant through the mail of the actual court date AND if the defendant wants to postpone the 3rd date, defendant can do so in writing... Maybe defendant shows the 4th time.
    - Each time you show, it could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an all-day affair but you have to be there from the get-go: HOURS.
    - Even though you can charge a high late fee (like 75 or 125 dollars) plus interest, this money hardly covers ALL the time you'll spend in court. In addition, YOU have to pay the court cost upfront (another 40 dollars, cash works best and since the defendant never paid you in the first place, good luck getting this bit).
    - Owing money is NOT criminal so they will not put defendant in jail for not paying, thus there exists ultimately NO real incentive for defendant taking care of the bill.
    - The defendant CAN spend 500+ dollars to hire an attorney and spend 3-5 times the money they owe you on their attorney JUST to get out of paying YOU. Even without an attorney and even IF your case is iron-clad, there also exists a slim chance the judge finds in your defendant's favor anyhow. Do you now feel like appealing?
    - Even IF the court finds your defendant guilty / finds in YOUR favor, meaning the judge has decreed this debt is legitimate AND they MUST pay within 10 days or else, guess what? NOTHING happens to them if they do not pay! Ok that is not totally true, it does go on their credit record - Big Whoop!
    - Yes you can, after the judge finds in your favor, take out additional measures such as liens and wage garnishments but guess what? EACH one of these filings costs you another 40 dollars (huhuhu you can recover it but that's real smart because the defendant hasn't paid chit and recovering THIS certainly doesn't help because it's money you already spent ALL on TOP of the original bill out of all of which absolutely nothing has been paid thus far ... and, you're the only one paying).
    Last but not least, defendant can evade wage garnishments for a long time (might become self-employed for one), may not own a house, keep the car for 10 or 20 years until it's worthless (should you put a lien on it), close his/her bank accounts to prevent seizure, and so on ...

    Forget contracts and court cases, that stuff don't excite me in the least.
  2. rodfather

    rodfather LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,501

    You seem to know alot of this...either you have been the defendant too many times and/or have been the one chasing the defendant too many times. Either way, glad I am not your business partner for sure.
  3. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,370

    This is why you get lawyers to handle deadbeats that believe they don't need to pay. The lawyer adds on his charges so you aren't out a lot. And in some cases it can take a couple years to resolve. And yes the contract and the associated wording and work logs and billing information and photos are important. Most people give pretty guickly when they get a couple letters from a lawyers with a few facts....You can't run a sizeable business without some type of debt collection process. It will eat you up alive trying to do all the work yourself.
  4. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Messages: 10,178

    you are so wrong, i can't even tell you how wrong you are. i have filed all my complaints against non payers as CRIMINAL THEFT. and in fact, been given the option by the court , to try and convict the offenders as criminals. in every single case i got paid money for services, late fees, and a fee for my court appearence.
  5. Precision

    Precision LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,995

    What he said.

    Besides you are out to save your clients money, so why bill them anyway. That will save them tons of Money.
  6. yrdandgardenhandyman

    yrdandgardenhandyman LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Messages: 953

    Well New Jersey must be different than most of the world because if you tried that here they'd laugh you out of the cop shop and tell you it's a civil matter and to take it to civil court.
  7. Mr. Magpie

    Mr. Magpie LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 322

    I always felt that a contract can help when you can refer to it to clarify what both parties agreed to. Usually the client screws up and forgets what we agreed on, so I have to remind him what we did agree on. If I used contracts, I could just pull that out and shove it in their face, politely of course.

    As far as legal implications, I never thought of them as very substantial. I almost never have a receivable from anyone more than 1.5 months, so it wouldn't matter to me anyways.

    So many problems can be avoided in this industry from just comunicating with people well and dealing with stupid social situations well. I don't need no stinking contracts either, people love me and my service..... that's the contract.
  8. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Messages: 10,178

    if someone called you, and asked for service, you provided the agreed upon service, then demanded payment, and they laughed at you, and told you to go screw yourself, your local p.d wouldn't back you? even when it was obvious, that the individual fully intended to steal your service, and never had any intention of paying you? even if thier theft was pre meditated? hey that's a nice place you live. i had one incident, where bith the customer and myself went to the police dept at the same time. you know what the cop said? he said, "did he cut your grass? THEN PAY THE MAN!"
  9. lawnman_scott

    lawnman_scott LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,547

    to be in criminal court doesnt the person have to be arrested? Do you have to place him under citizens arrest, or do the cops do it? How do you prove to a judge that he didnt intend on paying you? All the person has to say is he wasnt happy with your work.
  10. Precision

    Precision LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,995

    Regardless of happy or not if the work was performed (to the reasonable man test) then the provider of service needs to be paid.

    Obviously, there are people who are never satisfied. I am not responsible for their unfortunate lot in life. But they are responsible for paying me for my work.

    Before and after pics help a lot.

    I find that the intent to lein letter posted by Jim Lewis cleared up my two non-payers REAL QUICK.

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