It seems if someone is hell bent on not paying a bill, they can do a lot to avoid it. But here are some great ideas, from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, you may want to consider trying to get a deadbeat lawn care customer to pay up. Each state is different on how they handle such procedures so you need to investigate this further, but this is one entrepreneurs thoughts on the matter.
He wrote “I have found, when trying to debt collect from deadbeat customers that some of them will be ducking contact when they recognize you, your truck, or your uniform coming? If so, here are several ideas to help give you an edge.
1. Consider sending someone else (an employee they have never seen, complete stranger, etc) in an unmarked vehicle, but with ID so they can not say they can’t prove the person is with your business. Think about even going yourself but wearing a uniform shirt or what ever you would be wearing if you showed up to mow their lawn but with perhaps a button down shirt slipped on over the top to cover up the logo. Don’t wear or drive anything they would recognize as being from your ‘ABCDE Lawncare business’…
2. Consider sending a certified letter. This does several things, a) you are using the unsuspecting evidence: the mail carrier. They can no longer say they did not receive the bill or what ever you send. b) If they end up signing for it you already know they still live there which takes me to idea # 3.
3. Have you tried small claims court? Or is there no such thing in your state? If you have access to a small claims court you may have a minimal expense to file a suit against them and then bring them into the court to face the wrath of the judge.
In some states when you file a suit in a small claims court you may have the option of how the summons to court is served: by the local Sheriff’s Department, or by a Private process server. You may have to go through an attorney to get access to a private process server. Here is where the information from the idea in 2b becomes useful. If you know positively that the person lives there (from the signature on the certified letter return) you can provide this information to the process server. Additional information that is nice for the process server to have is: vehicle they drive, telephone numbers, place of employment, family members who may know where to find them, any other contact info, etc.
Once they are served with process and they fail to show for their court date there may be a warrant for their arrest issued for contempt of court. Again, they created the problem, not you.
If they do show for court and you receive a judgement in your favor you may be able to charge them with the cost of pursuing them including late fees, court costs, cost to serve papers, etc, to help you minimize your out of pocket. If they do show up to your court date be sure to ask the judge if the judge can find judgement for these additional expenses (and have the expenses at hand). In my state and I assume it is similar in other states, if the people are employed, you can then garnish their wages. If they are unemployed and don’t pay, you can go back to the court and continue the process.
I know this sounds like a long process but again, it is partly for the principal. If you have major outstanding accounts I would recommend using an attorney for these and making these the first ones you pursue. If you decide to not use an attorney, start with the smaller accounts in case you lose them, you have lost less.
I would obviously try options 1 and 2 first as they are much less time consuming and expensive. Just make sure you add your late fees and penalties etc. Remember, when you spend an hour trying to collect, that should be at least partially on them, not you. After all, it is because of them.
Thus some preliminary figures:
- $35.00 bill over due by 5 months
- $25.00 late fees (at $5.00 per month)
- $5.00 in interest (preliminary at $1 per month to make it easy to figure)
- $65.00 total.
Now you have $30 to either pay for your labor and aggravation or to reimburse the collection agency fees.”
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