“Ask Your Attorney” Column

How Can I Settle Up With A Creditor ?

Dear Counselor: I recently hired a handyman to do some painting for me. I bought the paint, and he did the painting. The problem is that he sent me a bill for his work that I feel is way out of line. I called and told him that I wanted to pay him, but not overpay him. He said he’d see me in court. Do you have any suggestions?

Dear Client: If you have a figure in mind that you think is fair for the painting that was done, don’t waste time getting into an argument over the phone, or worrying about what he’s going to do. Send him a check for the amount you think fair, and maybe even a bit more. On the face of the check (not on the check stub), write: “Payment in full for painting services rendered.” Always be very descriptive of exactly what you are paying for. If your painter decides to accept payment, and deposits the check, the law treats this as an “accord and satisfaction” and he cannot thereafter legally collect more. This is an easy solution when relatively small amounts due are being argued over. In cases involving a lot of money, the compromise of a disputed claim is often carried out through payment, in return for a written Release. But in everyday situations, you can make payment, and if you write “payment in full” on the face of your check, and describe for what, the creditor cannot take your check and still claim more is due.

John L. Maier, Jr.