advice for issues with collecting final payment

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Forum topic by , posted 07-06-2013 12:12 AM 2695 views 0 times favorited 103 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2387 posts in 2637 days

07-06-2013 12:12 AM

So I have had this issue with collecting a final payment. It is from a high end builder who is building 3/4 million dollar homes. He does not seem to be broke or anything that I can tell. We completed the final punch list at the end of April. He paid us but held a 20% retainer fee which totals just a bit less than 5,000.00. It is a large amount of money for us. It hurts just knowing this money is owed to us.

So I have emailed him the final invoice 3 times. My wife called him last friday and he advised her that he was in his office and would work on getting the final payment sent to us that day, which was 7 days ago. I don’t have an attorney but have considered getting an attorney to send the builder a letter requesting payment. I have not dropped by his office yet, but have considered doing just that. I am not a very confrontational kind of guy though so before a face to face meeting happens, I will need to be confident in what my exact rights are so that I can speak intelligently.

As far as I know there are no issues on the job. I have several photographs documenting this job, in fact it is one of the best jobs we have ever completed. It turned out extremely beautiful so it is hard to fathom someone ripping us off on this job. Both the builder and his Project Manager advised me everything has checked out good.

I typically do not run into this issue. Most of the time customers will pay out when the job is finished. Most of our jobs are with owner builders or owners who are remodeling so I am typically dealing with an owner.

Not sure if there are any good words of wisdom here. I am going to consult an attorney.

-- .

103 replies so far

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 1376 days

#1 posted 07-06-2013 12:34 AM

What your rights are should be spelled out in the contract. You spell out the exact scope of work and you also spell out payment schedules. If he’s beyond the contract for final payment, you are well within your rights to go pay him a visit and just tell him you were in the area and thought you’d stop by to see if any problems have come up that you weren’t aware of.

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2738 days

#2 posted 07-06-2013 12:38 AM

When you are dealing with this sort of higher-end client
they may string you along for accounting and tax reasons…
assuming they aren’t out to cheat you.

There are books with polite collection letters in them
and I suggest you consult one or two to see if you
can find something that has a friendly/firm tone
you can adapt to your cause.


View Don W's profile

Don W

16825 posts in 1658 days

#3 posted 07-06-2013 12:41 AM

it should also be in writing that after 30 days you have a right to charge interest. I know it doesn’t help, but sometime additional fees forces payment. I worked for guys like that. It seemed the more money they had, the harder it was to get it.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5544 posts in 1382 days

#4 posted 07-06-2013 12:49 AM

Check out your state’s mechanic lien laws and don’t let them expire—some high rollers are notorious for cheating their subs out of small amounts of money—not enough to make it economically feasible to hire an attorney but enough to rob the sub of his profit. I know you hate to loose jobs in this economy, but my opinion is that its worse to do the job and loose your profit while just contributing to that high roller’s bank account.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Buckethead's profile


3121 posts in 959 days

#5 posted 07-06-2013 12:53 AM

Got to the mattresses.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Dallas's profile


3571 posts in 1577 days

#6 posted 07-06-2013 01:05 AM

Hmmm, I’m not sure where you live but go into the building you installed the cabinets in and uninstall them.
I would bet that within 30 minutes you will have a contractor on site and a few minutes after that you’ll have a check (Although I would demand cash).

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Boatman53's profile (online now)


919 posts in 1286 days

#7 posted 07-06-2013 01:22 AM

That is why I will never work for a contractor again, except for one. He was/is a customer of mine in the boating world and needs me for his boat so we already have that relationship. Anybody else, no. If they really need my skills I will only work for the owner. Good luck.

-- Jim, Long Island, NY home of the chain leg vise

View jimmyb's profile


185 posts in 982 days

#8 posted 07-06-2013 01:24 AM

I agree, a mechanic’s is your strongest weapon.

-- Jim, Tinley Park, IL

View Makarov's profile


100 posts in 896 days

#9 posted 07-06-2013 01:31 AM

Small claims court get judgment then take his tools if he doesn’t pay you. No lawyers just you him and the judge. 10000 limit in TX.

-- "Complexity is easy; Simplicity is difficult." Georgy Shragin Designer of ppsh41 sub machine gun

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2637 days

#10 posted 07-06-2013 01:32 AM

Thanks guys. I do need to do something quick as I am starting to wonder. I think I am going to seek the advice of an attorney as I think a letter from an attorney would not cost too much but could be a little more forceful than I am. Probably stopping by to see if there may be any problems would also work fine.

My thinking though, if he had issues with anything in the cabinet job, he has had ample opportunity to bring it to my attention and there is really no issue in a cabinet project of this magnitude that could possibly be valued at nearly 5,000.00 or justify withholding nearly 5,000.00.

-- .

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2637 days

#11 posted 07-06-2013 01:38 AM

Dallas, I am in San Antonio. One other thing, which should not matter really. The builder sold his model home. Then the home we did the cabinet job on, the builder leased that home from the actual owner in order to use as his new model home. So now his actual model home has our cabinets inside. I heard he is currently building another model home to move into when his current lease expires. So removing the cabinets will cause a big scene and probably could get me arrested. I don’t know. But I know I would love to go and get my cabinets. However there is some heavy granite on them. I could get the upper cabinets.

-- .

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2387 posts in 2637 days

#12 posted 07-06-2013 01:39 AM

I just checked, the Texas Mechanic’s Lien expires in 4 years. That is really good to know. Thanks for that info.

-- .

View Tim's profile


2572 posts in 1051 days

#13 posted 07-06-2013 01:41 AM

It could be for lots of reasons, but it’s highly likely Loren is right. Pretty much all big companies do this to whatever smaller companies they can get away with doing it to. The longer they avoid paying out money the less interest, fees, etc they pay and the more money they have to earn money with. So find your leverage points and use them. Small claims/mechanics liens are powerful but keep them in your back pocket. You could talk to other contractors that have worked with them to see if they do it to everyone and if they eventually pay. If so, leverage harder.

View Dallas's profile


3571 posts in 1577 days

#14 posted 07-06-2013 01:52 AM

Jerry, I haven’t done it in Texas, although I live here, but call the county sheriff and have them send a deputy with you.
You own that product, not the contractor.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2637 days

#15 posted 07-06-2013 01:55 AM

Thanks for the info guys.

-- .

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