Customer isn't paying - what to do?!

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Posted by: from Whitby
2/21/2012 at 5:26:44 PM

I completed a 4 week job for a neighbour of mine. its been a week since I finished and he still hasn't paid. The first couple of days he telling me he has to check the work and get the money. A week has gone by now, and after msging him earlier, he told me he is waiting to get paid.

I highly doubt money is an issue to him for a couple reasons. He owns a flea market and a couple strip plazas, he is very well off. He did mention though in his last text how he could have sued me but he didnt. This is what happened, I hired a general labourer off kijiji to help me out for 3 days. 4 days after he was done, the owner called me in the morning and told me his house was robbed and 4 watches worth $12,000 each where taken. He never accused me of anything, but was sure that my labourer took them. The cops came and got a report. Everything was ok between us, we joked around and I continued to work there for another week to finish up.

Today when I asked when he was planning to pay, he responded with 'Dude, you left that guy alone in my house that robbed me, your lucky I didn't sue you, relax..."

I asked when he is getting 'paid' and didn't get a response. i called him and he didn't pick up. This guy lives literally right across the street from me. I am planning on going to his house tomorrow morning or evening after work to speak to him directly.

I have never had a customer not pay me. I have googled this and got putting a lien on their property and small claims court. What will you guys do in this situation??

I dont have a signed contract by him either, it was a cash job (less than $5000). I do have a bunch of text msges though where I give him prices for the work and he acknowledges. Any advice will be appreciated.

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Date/Time2/21/2012 at 6:41:49 PM

Well my friend you got a problem there. How do you know he didn't rob himself or say there was stuff missing? How well do you know this guy? Never, take on a job without a contract signed for one. If the customer doesn't want to sign a contract then that is a red flag. Not sure what you can do at this point. Consult a lawyer perhaps. Did the cops talk to the guy you hired? A lawyer is your best bet at this point. Sorry I couldn't of been more helpful.


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Date/Time2/23/2012 at 5:41:39 PM

Sorry about your troubles, but as Brent has outlined it is always best to have a signed agreement that clearly sets out the scope of work, cost, payment terms, remidiation etc etc. In Ontario you have a limited amount of time to file a lien. As you appear to have some paper work, like Brent I suggest you talk to a lawyer to ascertain how you are positioned to recover your money.

Good luck

Kingsway Construction Inc

Glenn Rosborough

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Frank in Whitby
Date/Time2/23/2012 at 6:18:17 PM

Thanks for the responses guys. I think I am going to wait a little longer and see if he actually does pay and then proceed with a lien. I believe I do have enough evidence to prove that he did agree for me to do the work and for the price.

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Rick in Chilliwack
Date/Time2/24/2012 at 2:52:22 AM

Seems there are some not so nice customers out there. I always get deposits on materials that have to be cut or especially ordered. $500 of material that has to be cut from the supplier equals $500 I need before proceeding. I can't take it back it is yours.

The next thing is a signed agreement that if the job extends over a period of time I ask for weekly payments and submit my hours for every week. I have never had a worry that my labour has gone for not. Of course it does help if the customer is pleased with results as mine have been. I've never had a problem working this way.

Try to get a budget from your customer. This allows you to determine if the project is within reason. If not, you can suggest options to allow the project to proceed, such as leaving the shelves out for now or the very good quality $300 taps instead of the $700 over priced quality ones that have a fancy finish or so the manufacturer would have you believe. They all wear out eventually and you saved your customer $400 that could be put to better use. Believe it or not customers really appreciate the fact that you are looking out for them. I have lots of recommendations and repeat customers for more work because I show I care.

Lots of guys out there overcharging just because they can. Be reasonable, take pride in what you do for your customer and follow the above payment schedule. They will pay.

Unfortunately small claims seems to be the answer for your current situation.

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Date/Time2/24/2012 at 7:49:53 PM

Hi Frank,

It looks like you are in a bind.

Just to let you know in Ontario a Lean cost about $900 and a Lawyer has to do it so its done right. Small Claims cost only about a$100 but you need to keep free time for being in court yourself.

If it starts to take too long, tell him you need some of the money to pay suppliers or they will take their items back... try to minimise the balance...

I hope this helps...


Harry C.

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Date/Time2/29/2012 at 12:24:15 PM

Do you legally own and operate a contracting company in this province? Do you have WSIB, or at the very least a WSIB clearance? Do you pay any taxes at all? How about Liability insurance?

If you answer no to any of the above, the home owner that you claim owes you money, has reasons to hold back some of the money.

His threats of suing you are just that, threats. Seriously though if you are properly insured this wouldn't be an issue. I have to ask, as a 4 week "cash job" doesn't seem like a very good deal. What kind of job are you doing that requires 4 weeks of your time and materials, and is only worth 5000??

Best advice, if you do have the capacity to be able to invoice, is to prepare an invoice with the agreed upon price. Add on the HST and try to get the ball rolling legitimately. You will have a hard time getting a lawyer or the courts to help you with your claim otherwise.

Good luck

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Date/Time3/28/2012 at 12:32:53 PM

I don't want to sound like a jerk, but I think I would call this a $5000 learning experience.

When you start doing things under the table these are the risks that you take. I have gone through the lien process also and it can be done less expensive if you do it yourself, but in this case I am not sure what your rights are.

The guy robbing client and the work you did are likely considered separate issue (legally), but that is why you should be carrying proper liability insurance, just in case for some legal reason it is not separate (bonding, breach of contract, breach of trust, etc).

Legal advice is worthwhile, but I think it may be good money after bad. I really don't think you have any options. If this guy has the money as you indicate, a lien is no threat to him, it is just the cost of doing business.

Good luck with this. I would be interested in hearing how it turns out.



John Kuehnl-Cadwell

Master Electrician

Datawise Solutions Inc

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Date/Time5/25/2012 at 7:04:02 PM

Sorry to hear that Frank but you should know better.

When I want to hire a person even for a week or so I ask them to provide a criminal record and I reimburse the amount. Plus I have the client sign a contract including the payment schedule if they don't wanna pay for some reason lawyer will have to do his job.

But I'm sorry to hear that you going through all that trouble.

Good luck.

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