‘trying’ to get paid….



At the turn of the year I made a concious decision to not do anymore work for people in my life who decided not to pay or make it difficult to get paid.  

I know this is something that may happen to all businesses but I’ve come to the point where I’m wondering whether there is something more I can do.

There are genuine situations out there, I really do appreciate that. And I don’t [to an extent] mind if someone is straight with me from the outset and even makes an attempt to make some form of paymet or to keep me posted.

That said there are those who maybe believe that maybe he won’t chase me for such a small amount. Or it maybe a case of stuff ’em. I simply don’t know, exactly, the reason…. All I know is I’m not getting [any] payment.



I have three real example cases.

since the 6th of june 2008: – a lady in Malahide who paid part of the bill already, told me she doesn’t have the money to pay. I arrive up to the house the next time and find a new car in the driveway and no one will answer the door.

since the 3rd september 2008: a builder who was supplied topsoil makes ‘the payment to another company’ and tells me to ‘go chase them’. The other company refuses to pay and neither will the builder.

9th July 2009: another ‘builder’ who after three months decided the lawn was not to standard. The soil and levelling was to be done by his team. The lawn only to be supplied and laid by me. Apparently the lawn is not level and even though that was not part of my remit…. I have to wait over 3 months to find this is the reason [?] I’m told not getting paid. The fact that I disagree is irrelevant. But that is the reason I’m getting.

sit there and take it...?

sit there and take it...?

The question is what does one do…. if the amount is less than €1,000 or less €5,000 the excuses can and do continue.

Sidetracking slightly, I am [maybe] fortunate that the amounts are not overly excessive [?] and that generally speaking the clients I have are 99% of the time really nice people. Sincerely.

But it is at this point that I’m wondering if I should take the legal route, one I don’t really want to go down…. or admitting defeat [?] that I should simply name and shame the people live on the weblog…. a route I don’t really want to down either. The only other option it seems is to have a cup of coffee and let those rude enough to avoid phone calls and [logic] requests enjoy the [now] October sunshine.

Don’t get me wrong I am old and bold enough to have been whacked in the past and there was damn all I could do about it [legally]. Sometimes where small amounts were concerned I gave this money to charity…. but after 9 years in business there is simply a point here where it’s wrong. Unfair. Immoral. Whatever way you wish to call it’s not right…

The question is what would you do….?

ps: which reminds me…. anyone want to play poker for charity… 😉

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19 replies
  1. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    Really annoying. If you’d screwed up in even the smallest way, you can be sure Missus Woman in Malahide with her SUV or whatever it was would be after you in the small claims court. I don’t think you can take that route as a business, however.
    Initial instinct would be to take a baseball bat to her car, but that’s just me. 🙂
    I think a polite letter, with an invoice, reminding the offenders of their obligation to pay would be a start. I’d follow that within 14 days with another copy, dropped in the door. Followed by a full day of phoning them on speed dial and leaving messages. Then, in the absence of any response, I’d send another stinker of a letter in a very polite, but well-drafted form, that made it clear your next step would be legal action.
    If that doesn’t work, then we all look forward to seeing their names and a picture of their houses (and lovely gardens) on your blog. 😀

  2. Catherine Crichton
    Catherine Crichton says:

    I looked into using the small claims court before but it cannot be used by a business as I recall. The other option would be to ask for payment up front, especially in the current climate and when dealing with builders. We had a lot of work done on our house this year and the builder told us that several suppliers insisted on this – “payment in full before we unload the lorry”. This may sound OTT but at least you could ask for deposit in advance and also be very clear from the outset that you expect the balance to be paid on your last day of work?

  3. David Quaid
    David Quaid says:

    A very common complaint. First of all, you need a really strong contract/terms of trade and conditions.

    In your terms and conditions, you can lay out when you should be paid (e.g. within 7 or 30 days), what the penalty for not being paid is (handover to a collection agency with collection costs on top), what the process for dispute and dispute resolution (e.g. they must submit a written complaint within a certain timeframe)

    You also need to detail what it is you are doing and that anything over that is not included/chargeable as extra and the primary service must be paid before additional work is carried out.

    you can also add in a Retention of Title that states you own all goods etc until paid in full.

    I suggest you talk to someone like EC Credit Control for writing your terms and conditions and a good debt collection solicitor.

    you can also ask for personal guarantees. This way, if you end up in court and have a contract to which the other party is flagrantly in breach of, you may be able to recover the debt collection costs, thus making it both cost effective to recover small amounts (less than €10k) but also slightly satisfying when you do win (as they will have to pay your solicitor + interest + penalties built into your Terms of trade)

  4. Joe Molloy
    Joe Molloy says:

    A very timely post.

    Been doing freelance work for 12 years myself and have only had this come up as an issue on a handful of occasions so far thankfully, but I know how frustrating it can be. You have done your work and now find that you have to do more gratis just to get what you have earned. So here is my 2 cent.

    In all cases where I haven’t been paid promptly, the individuals I have dealt with seem to have developed a convenient little moral blind spot which enables them to perform amazing feats of moral agility to lay the responsibility for the non-payment at everyone else’s door but their own despite the fact that they themselves commissioned the work. So from the start I think its vital to firmly attach responsibility where it belongs on both sides.

    Before you do a tap on any project, sit down with the client and draw up a specification that describes the tasks that have to be undertaken by you to get the job done to the client’s satisfaction (and indeed their responsibilities and tasks) in writing and both sign off on it (don’t forget to cost in the time for preparing this document into your quote). The document would also cover costs and payment terms. Once you have this document signed off, everyone knows where they stand and if problems arise down the line you have something concrete to refer back to and I find that the process of hammering it out also weeds out clients who aren’t very serious about getting a job done properly early on.

    In relation to the payment terms, specifically deal with the late payment issue. Define the period after billing when the payment will be considered late, interest charges that will apply and stating that you will pursue for unpaid fees. In the first notice of late payment you can offer the facility of renegotiating the payment schedule if the think the client is in a valid hole but I honestly think these cases are rare if they have planned properly in the first place and why should you be left carrying the can if they haven’t.

    If even armed with all this information, a client still wriggles, small claims court is definitely an option for smaller amounts, last time I looked it was €9 to instigate proceedings – a lot cheaper than getting a solicitor to draw up a letter.

    I was interested to read you have given up on some payments in the past. I have never done that. When I do the work, I get paid, one way or another. If I don’t value my own work enough to pursue clients with a moral bypass, who will?

    On the naming and shaming thing, my own take is that its akin to you personally taking them by the scruff of the neck and dragging them through the mud – it may feel very satisfying at the time but inevitably you will find that you get splashed too in the process.

  5. Mark Tarbatt
    Mark Tarbatt says:

    Heard an evil story recently about how one miffed gardener got retribution over another. They made weedkiller ice-cubes and lobbed them over the wall. The neighbour couldn’t figure out why all these bald patches arrived on their lawn overnight!! Sorry can’t be of more constructive help than that 😉

    Btw, I looked into the small claims court for a personal matter once and for the hassle it was hardly worth the debt other than it might provide for a phyrric victory of sorts.

  6. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    @ pat phelan
    cheers pat. sincerely 😉

    thanks for the comment. the proposal of marraige has been withdrawn 😆

    hmmm…. bring back the barter system ?

    @david quaid
    great to hear from you again david and thanks for the detail in the comment. I’m sure many reading will appreciate that very much.

    @joe molloy
    its not that I’ve given up its more that I’ve heard so much of it going on and more and more so very recently. To those without a voice [be that a weblog or otherwise] it can be very frustrating and like David/ Pat/ you did, even just these comments alone may prove very beneficial to others. What is amazing is the amount of phonecalls just to say off the record that I’ve been there . Appreciate the comment mate.

    @mark tarbatt
    I’m guessing that that gardener isn’t married…. I’m not allowed bring anything garden related into the house 😆

  7. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    It’s ok…I *was* joking about the baseball bat. 🙂
    Have been there myself trying to get money from people who think you’re an easy touch because you work for yourself. Awful.
    At least the other posters had more, em, constructive suggestions…
    Best of luck with the miserable gits.

  8. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:


    i know 😉

    on a serious note… there are fair and logic points that have been made. Some of the [many!] calls yesterday evening made me realise just how regular this occurs to others.

    Some wondered where the politicians [we elected] are on this matter. Others reminded me of the ‘sleepless [self employed onlys need apply] nights’, some just glad that this matter was given some light and found the advice helpful.

    It’s a toughie and I’m not too sure there is a magic wand to fix this one….

    slán agus beannacht

  9. facundo
    facundo says:

    Hi Peter,

    Most of the above comments make a lot of sense and many look at what to do going forward. I believe your question was more in line with “what to do with the existing debtors”. It’s a hard one, but this has happened to me a couple of times. People get you in a state of mind in which they make you think that delaying payment is normal and that you are an alien because of claiming it. Then you stop for a second and day: this is crazy! There are a lot of debt collectors out there nowadays (I meet them at networking events). Many work for a commission, so it may be worth it to assign them the job (even if it is a small one). I would say that besides the strict terms that David for instance suggests, there is also an element of change needed in the attitude (e.g. These are my terms and if you agree there is nothing else to be discussed, full stop).
    Anyways, easy to say but hard in practice.
    Best of luck

  10. Rossa McMahon
    Rossa McMahon says:

    There are some contrasting comments above about using the Small Claims Court. To clarify: the SCC is available to consumers, mostly seeking redress for poor or no service or goods, to a maximum of €2,000. It’s a great system for consumers and claims can be lodged online at a small cost, with no necessity for solicitors to be involved.

    However, the SCC is not available to businesses seeking to sue customers in any way and debt collection is specifically excluded. I wrote about this recently (http://bit.ly/XIL8m) noting that Fine Gael have proposed extending the SCC to allow for small debt collection by businesses to a maximum of €3,000. The government have indicated they might accept this proposal but I’m not aware of any moves since, so it remains a proposal at this stage.

    If a small business has many small debts it is worth seeing a solicitor – it may be possible to agree a discounted fee, for example, for sending letters before action. A cost/benefit analysis can then be carried out by the business for each debtor if the solicitor’s letter does not elicit a response or payment.

  11. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    very fair points. However, it seems that in the end, agreement or not, in writing or verbal, it may simply come down to being a gentleman, a good guy and a good person from the heart.

    The point, partly, of this post was to raise awareness that this happens and is unfortunately a part of everyones business… including yours. As you said: easy to say but hard in practice.

    @rossa 😯
    and there you have it…. in a nutshell. I can sue my solicitor [for example] for free – but he can’t sue me 😆

    maybe a sense of [il]logic…?
    the ball is back in play…. and so the discussion continues 😉

    slán agus beannacht

  12. Philip
    Philip says:

    Legal eagles are a complete waste of time I find. These are for big companies or for very large amounts. Experienced non-payers are well aware that a small company has no cash flow to chase them. The law fully protects them. If you are a painter and finished painting, you cannot take the paint away afterwards and neither can you deface it as you can be caught for vandalism. The law somehow thinks you can put your kids feeding on hold indefinately while they deliberate at your expense.

    I think this is THE worst country in Europe for chasing debts. The laws are medieval in this regard and it suits the local elite here very well.

    Hone your judgement and learn from your mistakes. Just do business with hard working, unpretentious people.

  13. David Quaid
    David Quaid says:


    With respect, I dont think that statement is true. Individuals can be sued by a company or business – and if found in the wrong, the plaintiff can seek costs. Typically, debt collection specialists will take a % up to a certain point, like writing letters, stating position, move to legal.

    A good solicitor can also increase the chance of winning a case by making sure your contract and legal position is right.

    Lastly, if an individual/small business is clearly guilty, the court will direct a sheriff to collect payment. You can also move to list them in Stubbs Gazette – which will have serious ramifications on getting any future credit etc

  14. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    to an extent I may agree re: the legal eagles being more for big companies or for very large amounts. But I will 110% agree that

    if you are a painter and finished painting, you cannot take the paint away afterwards and neither can you deface it as you can be caught for vandalism. The law somehow thinks you can put your kids feeding on hold indefinately while they deliberate at your expense.
    I think this is THE worst country in Europe for chasing debts. The laws are medieval…

    from experience

    A good solicitor can also increase the chance of….

    A chance…. But ask any self employed person with their back right against the wall can they risk losing the case..? and there is a chance of it… the answer is no they can’t.

    One is also in a position to do nothing until 30 minutes before the case… steps of the court, there you go. interest free loans – at a push

    got to agree with philip here. I’d like to agree with david… but when the builder goes bust… you sue the company, not the builder.. 😉

    think i’ll go for a cup of tea…

  15. Philip
    Philip says:

    @David, I think we are living in a new world which is really starting to make its presence felt. Credit rating nowadays is irrelevant when no credit is available. Cash flow is key to surviving – not credit. Your use of phrases like, “if clearly guilty”, “Increase Chance of” etc etc. describe all too clearly the uncertainty surrounding legal actions and detached nature of legal meanderings and the double edged nature of justice’s own sword. But the paint job is a certainty of the past and that guy still has his kids to feed. Stubbs is really only for established long running companies which can afford good solicitors which cost good money. The small guys get squished in this scene.

    Above said, I do feel there is a lot the legal profession could be doing so business can be transacted without such risks. Maybe a mandatory contract geared for small businesses (with no hidden Gov strings attached etc) But at the moment, I see no incentive for them to re-engineer a process which in reality suits the profession as it stands at present. It’s a bit self defeating becasue it hurts everyone including the solicitors.

  16. Rossa McMahon
    Rossa McMahon says:

    In relation to Philip’s comments, which have some validity, lawyers don’t make the law and it’s up to the Government to change the legal/business environment.

    For example, if you would like the Small Claims Court procedure to be available to business creditors you could make representations to your local TDs to see that Leo Varadkar’s proposal is adopted.

    PS. There are arguments against Deputy Varadkar’s proposal, though I won’t get into them at this point!

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