How to Collect from a Builder

Calling up on the phone over and over again has been known to work. October 25, 2006

I never thought that I'd be in this situation, but I guess there is a first time for everything. I did a job for a GC lately and haven't gotten the final payment. It has been well over a month and I keep billing him and billing him. The problem is that it is for a show house that was built from scratch by him. The interior was subbed out to all the people (like me) who do work for designers. The problem is that I don't know who actually owns the house. I believe at the time he still owned it as a developer. So my question is, does anyone know of a good attorney in OC, CA that can lend me a hand? It's a bit more than small claims court, so that route is out. I suppose I need to file a mechanic's lien, but who will it affect? I'm baffled and angry. If you can't pay your subs, quit!

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor M:
Been there, am there now! You need to look for a construction attorney, or someone well versed in construction law. It varies from state to state, but you have a deadline, and there are different kinds of liens. Find someone you can work with. Some just push paper, others are trial only, some do both. I'd get cracking, the clock is ticking.

From contributor S:
It's been well over "a month" and you are needing an attorney already? Until I got into wood, I never met so many people who are so underperforming and overanxious to be paid. In interest of preserving a potential source of work, how about a phone call to the client instead of an attorney?

From contributor A:
We had a developer stiff us on a job a few years ago. Model home, discounted price of course, and no pay for several months. We filed a lien, no response. We hired a collection lawyer, nothing down, payment upon collection. The best $500 we ever spent - developer called two days later demanding to be met at their bank to be paid with a cashier's check (along with a very profane request to have our friend the collection lawyer stop the incessant calling).

Called the lawyer, got the okay to collect the $4000 and sent him his $500 the next day. Remember, business collection is different than consumer bill collection. These guys can be mean. Imagine if someone was calling your business demanding payment to whoever answers the phone with very few if any restrictions on what they can say or do.

From contributor J:
Check out Pre-paid Legal Services Inc. I am a member and love it. Around 37.00 a month, but well worth it for the small business membership.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I got payment by having my wife call over and over and over. She did a good job getting the money. But I think I will still consider that prepaid legal or find an attorney that will be there when I need him.