View Full Version : How to get deadbeat customers to pay?

10-02-2008, 05:51 PM
Hello everyone!

I'm sure it's happened to most of us...a customer that wants the garden weeded and then decides that her daylilies weren't trimmed just right and decides to not pay for the services rendered.

How do you get that person to pay for services that has been performed? Obviously you discontinue your services, but what about the past due amount?

Thanks!! Amy

10-02-2008, 10:21 PM
Check with your local authorities. I think its thaft of service valued at $100 bucks, or whatever. Here, I think anything over $100 is a felony too, so ask him if he realy wants to deal with that.
I used to be a manager at Jiff lube when I was like 19 and had to do that to two different people.both of them whet to jail.

10-03-2008, 07:43 AM
theft of services is correct. I work full time as a Night Manager at a hotel. I've had 2 occasions of people not being able to afford their bill. The authorities came, and said they have to pay or they would be arrested for theft of services. Make sure you have a contract though. Calling the cops without sufficient paperwork may prove useless...

10-03-2008, 12:51 PM
I just check with local authorities and they do not support any Theft of Services because it's a civil matter. Recommend Small Claims Court. That'll eat up my time; which I can't replace or make up! Hope I can claim that also!?!?

10-03-2008, 12:57 PM
How much do they owe you? That could help everyone make a better decision if they would go after this amount or just write it off.

10-03-2008, 04:11 PM
I know it doesn't seem like much, but it was my sweat and hard work.
2 accounts under $750.00 At this point, they're 8 weeks late.

10-03-2008, 04:49 PM
Well that still is a considerable amount of money. If it were $75, I probably wouldn't bother with it.

Why not just send them a nice letter saying if you don't get paid within x amount of days, you will be filing it in small claims court and when you receive judgement, you will be putting a lien on their house ;)

I am guessing they will not want to be this bothered by it and will want to pay you.

Also send the letter certified so they know you mean business and you have a receipt that they got it.

Here is a sample small claims letter that might help.

What do you think about doing something like that?


10-05-2008, 07:48 AM
Thanks Steve, I think I'll use that letter!!! Afterall, this IS the 3rd time she promised she'd sent the check.

I'm sure on the other hand, you're probably shaking your head and asking, 'why didn't she sign a contract.' I feel that when I want a person to sign a contract, they feel offended. But, from this day forward, I won't be touching a property without the proper legal documents signed. My time IS valueable.

10-05-2008, 01:35 PM
Let us know how it works out. If you reword the letter in a way that other lawn care business owners could use it. Please feel free to post what you created so others in your same spot can get their situation resolved too!

10-05-2008, 02:15 PM
Go by there every day and knock on her door. Eventually she will get tired of you coming by and pay you . I learned this when I was a collection manager. You may feel like a jerk at first, but then, who's the one that wont pay? Her. It really does work.

10-05-2008, 08:36 PM
I added a sample letter in the free customer letter section. Maybe this will be helpful too.


11-07-2008, 06:47 AM
Steve, Thanks to the sample letter you posted, I was paid. That's one deadbeat down and 1 to go! It was a small victory and a boost to my self esteem. Thanks!! Amy:)

11-07-2008, 07:04 AM
Amy, that is great news!

Tell us what you did to get paid. Did you use the letter? If so, how did you send it?

I am sure a lot of new lawn care business owners are reading this, wondering what steps you took to get success.


11-09-2008, 06:57 PM
First, I called the Small Claims Court in Oakland County and gathered information on starting a small court claim. How much to file, how much for the Sheriff to serve papers, etc. Then, I gathered my information regarding my deadbeat client; like the dates we performed lawn & garden maintenance and filled in the blanks. I stressed she had 5 days after the receipt of the letter to settle her bill. If not, then I will file a claim against her for theft of services.

I went to the post office and sent the letter registered mail. 3 days latter, I received her payment in full. I ran to the bank and deposited the check; hoping she didn't put a stop payment on it! Accompanying her check was a little nasty note stating that she was the one who fired us, but that doesn't excuse her nonpayment.

Steve, thanks for the letter templates and all your help! Amy

11-10-2008, 08:42 AM
Hi Amy,

That is great news!

Is there anyway you could share with us the text of the letter you used, take out the personal info, so others in your same boat can see what worked for you?

I think the formatting would really be beneficial.


11-11-2008, 05:38 AM

Here's the letter format that I used. I removed the personal information and others who use it can just fill in the blanks appropriately.

Dear deadbeat:

You had hired ABC Company on (insert date) to perform garden maintenance at 3 week intervals, starting this day. At the same time, you hired us for lawn maintenance at an agreed price of $$, starting this day. Since then, I've performed garden maintenance per our contract on this day and lawn maintenance was performed on the following dates. Payment terms per our contract are due upon completion. Payments for the services listed above are now due immediately. Despite several phone calls to you to collect payment, you have stated on 3 seperate occasions that your payment is in the mail. Since I have not received payment to date, your services were terminated by ABC Company on said date, due to theft of services.

As per our contract, I am requesting to be paid $$$ for our services.

If I do not hear from you within 5 days from the receipt of this letter, then I will file a petition with small claims court in Oakland County.

I look forward to working with you toward a resolution of this matter.

Very truly,

11-11-2008, 05:59 AM
Thank you so much Amy!

Throughout this experience, what would you say was the biggest lesson you learned about running a lawn care business? Have you learned something new about sensing when a customer is going to be a problem. Are you using contracts now? What advice can you offer the new lawn care business owner who has yet to run into such a problem?

Fresh Cut
01-11-2010, 06:35 PM
Go by there every day and knock on her door. Eventually she will get tired of you coming by and pay you . I learned this when I was a collection manager. You may feel like a jerk at first, but then, who's the one that wont pay? Her. It really does work.

who has time for that?

01-12-2010, 10:57 AM
who has time for that?

What method would you prefer using to collect over due money?

01-27-2010, 02:44 PM
Small claims court seems to work well. Many offer to pay before the court date because they know they will have to pay in court.

I can even mail in the compalint with a check to file it to save time.

In NJ we only have 90 days to put a lien on someones house, so the small claims court does the trick.

01-27-2010, 08:33 PM
In NJ we only have 90 days to put a lien on someones house, so the small claims court does the trick.

Have you used both methods? What are the pros and cons of them?

01-28-2010, 11:48 AM
The small claims court works well. After you know the fees you have to pay you can do it all by mail and saves time. Most times they will contact you to settle paying before court.

The lien on the property stays on there and they cannot sell the house, re-finance or get home equity loan without paying your lien off. So sooner or later you are going to get paid. I just dont like that you have to do this within 90 days here. 6 months would be better.