If Iam a web-site designer and have a non-paying customer who owes me about $5800, canI shut down his website?

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If Iam a web-site designer and have a non-paying customer who owes me about $5800, canI shut down his website?

Asked on November 14, 2011 under Business Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

IF you are hosting his website on your own computer or server, or through/on your own account at some third-party web-hoster, you probably can stop providing this service until you are paid: the customer would be in material breach of his or her obligations by not paying you, and you are not required to continue providing services to someone in material breach, or to keep expending your money and resources for someone who does not pay.

However, if the website is not hosted by or through you, you may not go and shut it down (such as by using a backdoor or administratrive access) which you have, unless your agreement specifically gives you the right to do this  in the event of nonpayment; that's because in this case, it's not a matter of you not being obligated to continue providing a service while not paid. Rather, you would going and interfering actively with the customer's business. If you are not the host or provider, your recourse is to sue for the money.


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