Monday, January 28, 2013

What To Do If A Client Won't Pay

It seems fairly simple, straightforward and fair: If the client doesn’t pay, stop work on the project. This can be a very effective way of focusing a client’s attention on your need to be paid. However you have to write this very carefully in your contracts.

• Have you contracted for extensions in such items as due dates, or will you be forced to meet original due dates even though work was halted for a period of time?

• How will third parties be affected? The project may have tenants who have an expected move-in date, or financial commitments from lenders. How will a delay affect them, or will you have to take the blame?

In other words, a step this drastic has to be considered from many angles, and the contract needs to protect you against all actions for stopping work to be effective. There are other, less drastic actions you can incorporate into your contracts.

• Do not stamp or seal drawings or reports. If your contract gives you this right, this step can render the drawings and specs (or reports) unusable with third parties without stopping your work on the project.

• Hold up on contractor submittals, such as approvals of shop drawings, pay requests, or RFIs.

• Hold up on preparing or filing any permits, or other government approval items.

While these steps are less drastic, they will serve to get the clients attention towards paying overdue invoices. Be sure to have these provisions reviewed so you don’t have any unexpected surprises if you try to exercise them.

Negotiating these clauses with clients should not be extremely difficult. After all, these clauses will not be used if the client keeps their payments on invoices current. Strong client objections to including clauses of this nature may be an indicator the client does not expect to pay on time, which may be a warning to you.

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