Can you stop payment on a check for work already completed?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can you stop payment on a check for work already completed?

We own and work our carpet cleaning business. We cleaned carpets and an upholstered chair for a client. He was home during the cleaning. In and out of the house as we worked. He paid us after we were finished and we left. He was very cranky from the first phone call to book the

appointment, should have known then that this was not a man to work for. Later that night he called and said we did not clean the chair and a lot of verbal slander and name calling came from him. At that point there was no going back to please the customer. We have been in business for 28 years and have a very reputable company, we know people are different and sometimes you get a not so good one. However, he then stopped payment on the check that my wife had deposited. What are my legal rights? We did the work, he paid us for it, then took it back and cost us even more money from the bank for a bad check.

Asked on July 8, 2016 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If you did the work which you were supposed to, then he is contractually obligated to pay (even if there was no written contract, there would have been an oral, or unwritten, agreement to do certain work in exchange for pay or compensation). You can therefore sue him for breach of contract to recover the money. In the suit, while you can't recover legal fees, you can also recover other costs or losses reasonably traceable to his action in stopping payment, such as any bad check fees.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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