I perform small house jobs here and there for hire. I paint houses, repair things, do some roofing, and just an odd assortment of jobs. In the past this has been a pretty good business but lately though it seems like I am having trouble getting paid. What are your suggestions for things I could do?
Although several practical business approaches could be implemented to ensure payment, I assume you are asking about your legal recourse for late payments. Several legal approaches are worth discussing.
Foremost, you should consider pursuing what is called a mechanic’s lien. Mechanic’s liens can be obtained by contractors, subcontractors, craftsman, or others furnishing labor, equipment, and/or supplies used to improve a house or other building.
Most of the work you perform—i.e. painting, roofing, and repairs—should qualify for a mechanic’s lien since the key test is whether the work improves the properties.
It is important to note that the statutory scheme for mechanic’s liens must be strictly followed to perfect this type of lien including strict time limitations for filing. Accordingly, it is particularly important that proper procedure is followed on the front end to ensure that recourse exists on the back end. After a default, it is possible for a secured creditor to foreclose on the real property.
Another option would be to simply initiate a standard collection action to seek payment. This is usually done under what is called a limited action depending on the amount of debt owed. If a judgment is obtained, various methods can be employed to collect the debt.
Finally, you may consider other legal avenues to enhance your ability to collect. One example would be to require homeowners that you perform work for to sign a properly drafted contract. A lawyer can help you with any of the above approaches. Hopefully some of these suggestions can help you deal with this frustrating situation and get your business back on track.