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Can I file a civil claim, small claim, property lien or just report a BAD DEBT LOSS?

MichiganRecovery Options

Here is my quick thoughts on my problem. I am a part time handyman with a MI builders license. Most jobs are done in a day or two. But a few times a year I do multi day jobs for family and long term friends (20 years of friendship).. The multi day job that went wrong is a one person shower on the second level, remove old plastic glue to the wall, install new from sub floor to finish tile. The friend decided I should be paid $11 an hour. My rate is $30 (national average for handyman is $45 to $70). I gave her a special rate of $25 hours. In started in 1972 for free charity and paid work 1990. I never had a friend do this. This friend does tile floors herself, but did not want to address this project. I spent 91 hours at the house, no charge to get supplies, drive an hour to get to the site and passed on my 25% vendor discount with no material markups . This friend split up my 91 hours over 3 ½ months. Meaning, during the 3 ½ months of trying to work, she had one month vacation, sent me home because a date come up, family over due to illnesses, she forgot I was coming over. On her white carpet stairs she had mover’s blankets (hard and not safe walking up the stairs). I did give a written “guess” what a single shower would take. I always tell everyone I don’t give a firm prices because I don’t know what is behind what is presently there, the client could changes the design / plans, wall might not level, no 90 degree walls etc. She paid three times, totaling $900 in cash and one money order of $112 (I did not cash it, she wrote "final payment", afraid to cash it.). She purchased the tile only three years ago. The tile did not fit the space properly without many cuts to make it fit the area. Plus no extra tiles and no plan on how to lay the pattern. She like color and price of the tile. She did not have the correct tile shape and size for the job. That took 4 hours to get a pattern planned but since she had not extra, each cut had to be measured to fit to keep grout lines as requested. The floor tile was 1 ¼” square, her request to cut them at 45 degree to meet at the edges at right angles. No PENCIL tile etc. Of the tile for walls and floor, 80% of the tile needed one cut or more. She owes $1263. = (91 x $25) – 900 cash – 112 check.

1 reply

Aug 8, 2018
I'm sorry to hear about your payment problem. Ultimately, it's up to each claimant to determine which route for recovery is the best fit for their situation. First, let's look at Michigan's mechanics lien requirements. In Michigan, only prime contractors with a written contract may file a lien on residential property. Further, a Sworn Statement must be provided by the prime contractor to the owner in order to preserve the right to lien. As for the lien deadline - Michigan liens must be filed with the Register of Deeds within 90 days after the lien claimant last furnished labor or materials to the project. Assuming all requirements have been fulfilled and the deadline has not yet passed, a mechanics lien may be a viable option - but it could potentially have a negative effect on relationships. Often, in an attempt to both preserve relationships and to avoid having to file a lien, claimants will send what's called a Notice of Intent to Lien. This document acts like a warning - it lets the nonpaying party that if payment doesn't come, a lien will be filed. Further, it can be sent regardless of whether a potential lien claim would ultimately be valid or invalid. Plus, if it's not effective, a claimant can proceed to file a lien or pursue some other method of recovery. As far as other options go, litigation and small claims court can both be effective to compel payment, and they both have their pros and cons. Litigation is costly, time-consuming, and ultimately a bit unpredictable. Small claims court is much cheaper and faster than litigation but can be even riskier. For more information on Michigan small claims court, here's an overview. Finally, as with a mechanics lien, threatening to take legal action can be effective to compel payment without actually having to take to the courts. Sending a demand letter citing specific legal actions that will be taken if payment isn't made can go a long way to encourage payment, and doing so through an attorney can provide a little exta "umph".
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