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What to do when my customers aren't paying their bills?

Updated November 7th 2022

3 min read

You aren't without options when a bill goes unpaid.

What to do when my customers aren't paying their bills?

What to do when my customers aren't paying their bills?

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Trey Salm

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Dispute is the easiest & most accurate small claims platform with affordable ways to resolve every dispute.

Picture this: Your work takes real-time, skill, and effort. You spend multiple hours, days, weeks, and months coordinating with a customer and doing the labor. And then what happens? Your invoice goes unpaid. How can you get the money you're owed?

What can you do about getting paid?

There are a few options you can pursue to get the payment you are owed for your work and supplies. Here's what you should try:

  • Send a Notice - a cordial follow-up asking the other party to pay for the overdue invoice can be helpful to remedy the situation. It's a best practice to provide your clients the benefit of the doubt whenever a payment is due. It could be that your invoice was misfiled or lost in the shuffle of the mailing company. Everyone is human, and good-intentioned mistakes happen. Provide a timeline for the payment to be received and wait for a response.
  • Send a Demand Letter / Final Notice - this one remains cordial but also outlines the potential legal actions you may take if payment is not received. This notice should include a deadline for payment and may suggest that a lien, a small claim filing, or civil court filing may proceed if the invoice is unpaid.

We can help you send a demand letter from your phone or computer in 5 minutes.

  • Sue for Breach of Contract - you can sue for a simple breach of contract. This lawsuit can be brought in regular civil court or small claims court, depending on the amount in dispute. Disputes for $10,000 or less will usually be directed to a dedicated small claims court. To prevail in your lawsuit, you may be asked to establish that the other party violated the terms of the contract despite your having performed the agreed-upon work. Key pieces of evidence might include:
    • a copy of the contract between you and the other party
    • before and after pictures of whatever work you completed
    • invoices of materials and expenses you've incurred
    • demands for payment that have gone unanswered

We can also help you generate, sign and file a small claim from your computer or phone within minutes.

  • File a Lien - a lien (sometimes called a "mechanics lien") is an official filing with the county recorder's office that puts the other party and the local legal system on notice of your claim. It shows your "security interest" in the home. Often, merely filing a lien will be enough to communicate to the other party that they need to settle with you (sometimes called "satisfying the lien"). If they still refuse to settle, you can foreclose on the lien and sue for the amount you are owed. Keep in mind the following when considering a lien:
    • County clerks are often very specific about their lien format requirements. Any error in the formatting of the lien document can render it unenforceable.
    • Check with your local county clerk's office to see whether it has a set form for lien filings.
    • If, after filing the lien, the other party still refuses to settle, you can foreclose on the lien and sue for the amount you are owed. You'll still need to collect, but now you have the legal right to do so.

We can help you generate, file, and serve a lien from your computer or phone within minutes.

Remember, you always have legal and safe options to notify your customers when outstanding payments are owed. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any additional questions.

Get Dispute to file your small claims case online today.
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