I have a small business that provides paint job services for homes and offices. I was once contracted by a customer to do a paint work for his home with a written agreement that I will be paid a total of P50,000.00 upon completion of my work. After finishing my job, I then went to collect my payment from my customer as we had agreed. My customer, however, made up some excuses and only paid me P15,000.00. Almost a year has passed since then and I still haven’t received the rest of my payment despite several and repeated oral and verbal demands. Now, I want to file a case against my customer but I am reluctant due to the expenses that I think I would need to pay for the lawyer and to the courts in the filing of a case. I hope you can advice me on an inexpensive and practical way to collect from my customer, and also on the proper procedure for it. Thank you!
It is clear from your narration that you would like to collect the remaining balance of your customer for the services you have rendered to him as supported by a written agreement. For this, we opine that the best way for you to collect legally is to file a civil case for recovery of sum of money under the small claims court.
A civil case for collection of sum of money is under the jurisdiction of the small claims court if the amount to be collected does not exceed One Hundred Thousand Pesos (Section 2, A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC, The Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases). Since the amount you seek to collect from your customer is below One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00), you may file your claim before the Metropolitan or Municipal Trial Court in the place where you reside or where your customer resides.
With regard to the procedure of filing your claim before the small claims court, you will need to fill up prepared forms to state the necessary information of your claim and include therein the copy of your agreement to support your claim thatwill then be part of the evidence of your case (Section 5, A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC, The Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases). As to the cost of filing a case under the small claims court, you will still be required to pay the necessary docket fees and other legal fees. Section 8 of the law, however, provides that you will only need to pay One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00) for the service of summons and processes should you be able to prove your status as an indigent.
It is also important to note that you don’t need a lawyer in your case before the small claims court. The rules on small claims court expressly prohibit the appearance of a lawyer for both parties of the case unless a lawyer is one of the parties in a small claims case (Section 17, A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC, The Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases).
After the filing of your claim, the small claims court shall require your opposing party to give his response and answer to your claims against him. After this, a judge will conduct a hearing wherein there will be a mediation in an attempt to settle your claims. Should this be unfruitful, the hearing of the case shall proceed in an expeditious manner after which the court shall render its decision based on the facts established by evidence. The decision rendered by the small claims court shall be final and unappealable. And should you win in your case, you may file a motion for the execution of the decision in your favor so that you may finally receive the remaining balance from your customer.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com