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I did a website for a client (2 other sites) and they talked me into accepting monthly after they paid me a little of what was owed.

So after 6 months, they had a sob story about money and they stopped payment, while promising me the rest (which is more than half of the agreed upon charge) when they get money.

So now it is a year and a half later and now they have money, but they want to do a buyout which is a few thousand less than what is owed.

If I take the buyout, can I pull the site down since they did not pay for it in full?

I maintain 2 other sites for them, but I don't make much money (owner was a good friend of my mother lol) so ending our biz relationship would not hurt me at all.

I do not have a contract with the client. I just submit an invoice and they pay me accordingly.

There is no exit clause. It usually ends when the client says they don't want my services anymore (which is rare).

The website is hosted on a server I pay for.

I've built and maintain 3 sites for them, have been doing so for many years. I do do extra work for them and I do minor updates/changes for free, because they pay for maintenance as well.

Please advise and thanks.

  • Hi Cice, welcome to Freelancing.SE! Do you have a contract with your client? What kind of exit claus is there? Is the website hosted on your server / a server you pay for? Are you keeping up with your bills? Are you doing any extra work for them? Please edit your question to include some of this information to help us answer it well for you. – Canadian Luke Oct 2 at 22:24
  • Done, thank you! – Cice Oct 2 at 23:32
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    1. NEVER enter a business arrangement with a client without a contract. 2. NEVER perform any work for a client without a contract. 3. Consult an attorney on what your legal rights are in this situation. – joeqwerty Oct 2 at 23:48
  • Related, but not exact duplicate: freelancing.stackexchange.com/a/618/75 – Canadian Luke Oct 3 at 2:15
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    Would not a "buyout" mean you give them the site... how could you then (legally) take it down? This is impossible to answer. You haven't detailed what the "buyout" is to include. But.. without a contract you are somewhat out of luck. But then, so are they. You need an attorney. – Scott Oct 3 at 7:03
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If you are paying for the hosting server, I would say you have every right to pull the site down for breach of verbal contract, if only for hosting it. But as others have said in the comments, your best bet is to contact a lawyer and find out exactly what rights you have in the locality where you do business, since this varies from country-to-country and state-to-state.

I would put into writing what you are requesting, what you did for that money, and what the consequences would be should they choose not to pay you the full agreed-upon amount. Sometimes that's all it takes. If not, you'd have a case for small claims court.

Accepting a buyout seems like you are agreeing to take less money for the website. This, to me, means you cannot take the site down or file any sort of claim against the client. I would only do that if I felt it was in my best interest to continue working with the client. Whatever you do, you need to get it in writing and ensure both parties agree.

I have a clause in my contract that stipulates I may take down the website if payment isn't received within 60 days of invoicing. Clients are contacted multiple times prior to that deadline and reminded of this fact, and consideration is given if there are provable hardships, but only for so long. I have pulled down websites for late payment just a few times, and only once has a client not turned around and paid immediately.

Treat your business like a business, and you'll find it garners more respect from your clients!

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  • Yes. Basically OP isn't acting like he respects himself as a professional and bad clients will eat him for dinner. Being nice is only a good idea when dealing with people who pay 100% of the time and never try to talk down your pricing. Even then you have to not give them the idea that you work for free tho unless you're fixing your own mistake. – HenryM Oct 7 at 23:45
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It seems you are being way to nice.

This is a business relationship that either needs to be completely fixed or ended. Since there is no contract, but you have keys to the castle so to speak, it seems you do have quite a bit of leverage in the coming negotiations.

These negotiations will most likely not be a pleasant experience - but you must dig your heels in and take a stand. This is a hill worth dying on - as you career-wise cannot accept to be pushed around in this manner.

Since they now have money, I would give them very short time (48 hours) to pay up in full - or suffer the consequences of you taking everything down. This is essentially blackmail, but it is the only leverage you have and you must use it. Do not allow them to talk you into giving them access to the hosting. Do not let go of your leverage before you have what you deem is fair.

This is a harsh consequence - perhaps even debilitating for their business - but it is them who have shoved you into a corner by attempting to bully you into accepting inadequate payment for services delivered.

You will most likely be threatened with law suits and the like - but if you can somehow demonstrate that they do owe you money and that you have been paying for hosting, their position seems weak.

These actions will most likely end the business relationship - or when the dust settles, change it into an actual professional relationship with a balanced contract and obligations on both sides.

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See a lawyer and show him any contract you have or your alleged verbal agreement if you do not have a signed agreement.

While it is probably safe it may cost you a lot more in the long run than to see the lawyer and follow his advice.

My feeling is the lawyer will say to back it up and take it down and refuse to deal with them until they pay all back expenses and then pay you a substantial up front deposit with monthly payments that must be paid on time or you will get to use the deposit for expenses and shut everything down permanently.

NEVER do anything involving money without a written signed agreement that your lawyer has looked over first.

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Do you own the Domain name? Hosting the site. maintaining the site is a service to the domain owner. If you own the domain name , then make this clear to your lawyer. Remember if you only published 'their text/image' they own copyright of text / images. You could always not take the site down, but replace with a 'site under maintenance page' while you negotiate if you own the domain and pay the hosting and compose the text/images. This is short of taking it down as it is still visible , but your client's clients will know there is a problem

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