I have a woman who has been a long term boarder. Her life is a train-wreck, almost all of it self-inflicted.
She has been an absentee boarder for most of the 10 years she boarded with me. And while she has always paid her board, it was late more often than not, and her checks often bounced. And we’re not talking 1-2 days late. Her board payment was always the lowest priority in paying her bills.
I was always led to believe she was struggling to make ends meet. Divorced mom in a never ending custody battle with her ex over her kid among other things. So I’ve felt bad for her. While I would charge late fees when she didn’t pay on time, I would sometimes not charge the full late fee to be kind.
2020 was a hard year for everyone, myself included. And it was during 2020 that her horse started to decline, health wise. He was in his 30s. She was also laid off due to the pandemic. It was only after she got laid off that I learned she was earning $150,000/yr! And yet it was always a crap shoot whether the board check would clear. I have to admit, I was really pissed when I found out how much she earned and yet she still bounced checks to me. She always made good, but the fact I’d have to wait 3 extra weeks to be paid when I don’t make what she does… grrr.
Her horse had to be euthanized at the end of last year. At the time of his passing, she owed me close to $900.00. She paid me $300 shortly after his passing.
January comes and so did my whopper of a feed bill, 2/3 of which was feed just for her horse. My low winter cash flow (plus her $600 debt I was carrying) made it so I couldn’t pay my feed bill in full or on time. (I am a very small operation) I incurred interest and a late fee, so I passed this on to her. She doesn’t make any payment in January.
February comes and I don’t receive any payment of any sort. I forgive her late fee for Valentine’s day.
End of February, she pays me $200.00, but the payment is returned for insufficient funds. I’m charged a return payment fee, which I also have to pass on to her.
Early March, she pays me $200 cash to cover the last payment she bounced (but not the return payment fee).
March 1, I assess a late fee for the unpaid balance. No additional payments were forthcoming for the rest of March.
April comes and goes, and no payment or communication from her. I assess a late fee as of April 1.
May comes and still no payment. Another late fee assessed on May 1. At this point she owes me $680.
Finally at the end of May, she contacts me with a proposal, sort of. She starts off asking me, “How much can I pay to to consider us square? Keeping in mind I’m still unemployed”. I gave her a total of $600.00. I said this is just the principal you owe me without late fees for Feb, March and May.
She starts off by telling me I’m being unreasonable in assessing any late fee to someone who is unemployed. She asks me if I will forgive ALL the late fees. She then says she will pay me $225.00 now and $250.00 in 2 weeks if I forgive the rest of her debt and the late fees. I told her I could not forgive Jan or March because I incurred a financial penalty because of her. I was not going to absorb that.
I make a counter proposal. I start off with, “Paying me what you owe should not be contingent upon my agreeing to any payment terms. If you have money to pay me, I expect you to pay me. Perhaps you could send that first payment as a show of good faith, and I will consider your proposal.”
I follow it up with, “I will agree to the following: I will accept your $225 now, your $250 in 2 weeks and then give you until June 5th to make the final $125 payment. So I am agreeing to your payments on your payment plan dates. I am willing to forgive all but the Jan and March late fees (due to penalties I incurred on your behalf). You are getting everything you are asking for except forgiving the last $125.” I also put in the caveat in (since I know all too well that some drama will come up and she will “need” to delay payment as she has done for 10+ years.) that if any of the 3 payments are late, the late fees will be reinstated retroactively. In other words, I made sure there was no way for her to get out of paying me when she said she would.
She tells me to sue her.
I gave her 24 hours to come to her senses and make the first payment, reminding her that these are the terms she proposed and she was getting everything she wanted except forgiving the final $125.00. And that I was being beyond reasonable. She made the payment without another word to me. 2 weeks later, I get the same sob story. Those late fees are unacceptable and I’m being unreasonable. I remind her that she has until May 14th to make the 2nd payment. The payment arrives at 11:30 pm on the 14th.
Now all she owes is the final $125.00 by June 5th. I send her a very pleasant email 3 days in advance reminding her the payment is due. She tells me she’s not making the final payment and has ceased all communication. I was hoping she would, but she didn’t. She will not respond to me further.
Because of this woman’s shenanigans through the years, I wrote the language into the boarding contract that the Boarder would be responsible for ALL cost of collections including (but not limited to) court costs AND my lost wages in pursuit of collections. When I moved to a new facility, I had everyone sign a new contract with these terms. Including her. Reinstating all of the late fees brings her total to $205.00 which will continue to grow each month.
Would you take this woman to court for $205 as a matter of principal? Or just write her off as a lost cause?