Would you go after tenant for damages and unpaid rent.

9 Replies

Long story short

They would not sign a new lease and it rolled over (auto renew for 1 year) and 2 weeks into the new lease they said they will be moving out.(did not pay rent and said to use last month rent) They broke 2 screen doors, window screens and have stains in the carpet in every room, small hole in wall and stains all over the stairs also, carpet was brand new when moved in. The last 2 months they really have not been cooperating. Said they would be out the 1st of month since new tenant is moving in and now its the 2nd or 3rd of month they said they will be out. They caused more damage then I have for the security and did not give me 30 days notice before moving out. (Could sue for remaining 11 months but that would be greedy) I almost fee like taking them to court but they have no money or really assets. I would like a few thousand out of them for damages and moving out early.

What would you do?


Unless you are certain you will prevail and actually recover damages, you are likely losing more money because of them. I would simply file against them in small claims, get a judgement since they likely won't show up and get that reported in their credit report.  Maybe someday they will pay it, but at least others will see it when they check credit.  Just because you lost money is no reason another landlord needs to.  I certainly would not pay money for an attorney to go after them.  Move on and hopefully select a better tenant next time.  

Originally posted by @James Wise :
Can't sue them for the remaining 11 months of rent.

Take them to court and get a judgement for the damages.

Why can't I? It is stated in the lease. (Not that I would go after them)

@Jimmy S.  I assume this is the same situation as you posted on your other thread? You might need to find out more about the Penn State laws. Either way, Im not one much to take stuff to court. Hard to make it worth my time and money even if they are the ones that owe. Id deal with them directly to see what else you can get out of them... you wont get 11 months rent, but may be you can get some extra. Unfortunately we wont make money off every tenant... but thats why we try to screen well and tenant proof properties to avoid this. When it happens, look for ways to limit the damage, you lick your wounds, try to screen better next time, and make money on the next deal. 

Originally posted by @Nate M.:
Originally posted by @James Wise:
Can't sue them for the remaining 11 months of rent.

Take them to court and get a judgement for the damages.

Why can't I? It is stated in the lease. (Not that I would go after them)

 You usually can only recover what is deemed as a sufficient time for you to get a new tenant... this might be 30-90 days rent, not 11 months. Every area is different though. 

Hey Nate,

Sounds like a sticky situation and I'm sorry to hear about the problems you're having. In California the laws regarding security deposits are strict and the California rental law book that I purchased awhile back talks about how to word the lease to tailor it to protect yourself. In California you can charge up to one and a half times the months rent for a security deposit. It also explains that it isn't a good idea to state that a tenant needs to pay first months and last months rent at the signing of the lease. If you state that you need first months rent with an additional last months rent it can open up a landlord to liability. 

In your case they told you to just use last months rent for the month that they rolled into, which leaves you high and dry for a security deposit since you have to use it for the mortgage and not the fixes! Now you can't really go back on your lease and to try to clarify what you meant.

As for the late rent I would file a 3 day pay or quit notice (in California it's 3 days) for the amount still owed that month. If they pay you a little after you serve them and not the whole thing, serve them another pay or quit for the remaining balance. If they don't pay, start the eviction process immediately! 

I don't have too much experience with going to court over past due bills and payments. Disclaimer, I have never gone to court for anything to be exact; however, you can always try and take them to small claims court. I know that California's Law is that a landlord and tenant would have to go to mediation and then to small claims with an amount not to exceed $7,000 (if it's less someone please correct me). You would have to weigh the benefits of your time in court with the amount of money you will receive.

Good Luck,


you have to make a reasonable attempt to market property.  If it takes 6 weeks to get someone else in, that's your damages...specific to the broken lease.  You can't just rely on the lease and wait until that is up to market it.  That said, in addition to the question of whether or not you ever will COLLECT said damages, judges tend to favor joe public over the big, mean, greedy landlord.  You might get the judgement as matter of law in your favor, but don't expect all the damages you are seeking....especially of you go in asking for 11 months rent. 

Damages... best practice is to drive by and observe the exterior often (monthly is good, weekly is better), inspect the interior often (semi-annually is good, quarterly is better), and deal with damages as you find them. Tenants who want to stay will pay for damages when you bill them at the time. Tenants on the way out will often leave you holding the bag.

Unless it is a significant amount they owe, it is not worth the chase. Better to beef up your rental agreement and security deposits for next time. Never knew of a judge that would allow a landlord to charge the tenant for 11 months of an unfulfilled lease. It is the expectation that you will make a good faith effort to re-lease as quickly as possible and the tenant would only be accountable for paying the rent (and possibly utilities) up until the new tenant's lease begins.

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