Small business owners struggle when customers don't pay

6:35 PM, Dec 28, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - Local contractors say customers who don't pay are putting their livelihood at risk.

After 9Wants to Know reported on more than a dozen people with unfinished kitchens after a Denver area after a remodeling company went bankrupt, we heard from several contractors who say their businesses are struggling right now because of non-payment from customers.

Remodeling jobs often run well into the thousands of dollars.

Getting that money back can take months, or even years, and sometimes contractors never see a dime.

Electrical contractor Kevin Wanser says he is feeling that financial strain more than ever.

"It's extremely tough. We are working job to job.," he said. "And when customers don't pay, it puts a heck of a strain on our financial situation."

Non-paying customers hurt the Wanser family greatly, taking food off their table at the time when they need all the help they can get.

"Probably the last year and a half has been the worst we've seen," Dawn Wanser said.

Their son Cody died in February from a rare form of dystrophy, called Metachromatic Leukodystrophy.

Their son Jacob also has MLD.

The disease is terminal, and medical bills are mounting.

"We've stayed together, we've worked together, we've bonded beyond words," she said.

Each day is a struggle to make ends meet and the struggle is made worse when customers pay late, or sometimes don't pay at all.

"When that doesn't happen, there goes any profit you may have had. Gone," Kevin Wanser said.

The Wansers say they're buckling under the strain of unpaid jobs, having to cover the cost of materials, and the cost of filing mechanics liens for unpaid work.

When a customer doesn't pay, a contractor's only option is file a lien in the county where the work was done.

Getting the money back is complicated and time-consuming and can often take months or even years if the contractor is ever paid at all.

"When you're trying to support a family, you're just trying to pay your bills and keep your head above water," Dawn Wanser said.

As 9NEWS first reported, Denver-based Kitchens 4 Less went bankrupt last month, leaving more than a dozen customers with unfinished kitchens.

The Wansers say businesses, and customers, need to be held accountable.

"Not only are there bad contractors, but sometimes there are bad customers too," Dawn Wanser said.

More contractors are asking customers for cash up front and hoping a deposit will help guarantee full payment when the job is done.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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