Tenant walked no notice - Texas

13 Replies

I live in Texas. We have a tenant who texted us last week stating that they have moved out and left keys and garage door openers on the counter - no notice and with 5 more months on their lease. She did not provide a fowarding address and has said that she feels her deposit will constitute the next months rent (as if she had given 5 weeks notice). We have been lucky and have never had to deal with this situation before. What is the proper procedure to take with this? Do I have to file for eviction? Will her text support abandonment? Do I simply tally up the costs, mail the letter certified to her last known address (our rent house) and then try to file in court? Can I file in court without a forwarding address? What suggestions do you have? Anyone with experience (especially in Texas) with suggestions are very appreciated.

@Stacy Eisenberg  

welcome to the site. Save the text messages where the tenant tells you they have left the unit. Take pictures/video of the empty home when you get there. 

Then put up a for rent sign in the front yard.

@Stacy Eisenberg  

I would echo what James said and also make plans to file in court for the remainder of the contract/lease on the house. I'm not sure how you would find someone if they had left the city/state, but you should have an emergency contact listed on your lease, or I hope you do anyway. If they won't respond to any of your attempts at calling or texting - Try that first for locating your tenant. If that doesn't work or at the same time, take to social media sites and see what you can find there. Finding friends of the tenant online and potentially contacting them may help you locate the individual.

It's good to make the point with tenants by going to small claims/court so that anyone and everyone who might know them or about you knows that they can't pull that with respect to you and your company.

Put that sign out and work on finding another tenant as soon as possible.

In my experience, even through small claims, an average recovery of funds has been at 50%. If I can get 50% back then I feel like it has gone pretty well actually.

@Jeff McCaskey  is right, some people just don't give a rip about their credit and simply won't pay you--ever. Collecting on half the judgments you're forced to get is doing pretty good. Jeff, are you farming those out to a third party collection agency? Or, are you pulling that percentage all by yourself.

Just remember @Stacy Eisenberg  , judgments are returnable. So, keep track of your old judgments as they get ready to expire and file the appropriate paperwork for their renewal. 

@Jeff G.  

Thanks for the mention there kind sir! I actually handle all of that myself at this point. The last time I thought about farming it out to a collections agent but I hung in there a little longer and was able to get to the 50 mark so I called it good and wrote the rest off.

That was actually a small claims situation, all the previous tenants that owed money, I chased them down on my own - was able to do that mostly because I'm in a small town and nobody gets far unless they blown town all together.

How do things work for you back east????

Stacy nice to meet you my name is sky Mikesell I am based in Charlotte nc

In most states this would simply be considered abandonment and there is no need to go thru the effort and expense of eviction for just formality purposes.

You have possession of the house back change locks fast so they can't move back in (which has happened to me after someone officially moved out) 

For proof of service since tenant did not leave forwarding address you are sti required to provide accounting of security deposit even if their text told you how to apply it. 

So tally up all the expenses apply the deposit to it. Then put that accounting and their balance due in the mail and mail it to the house they just moved out of (your property) 

In the past when judge has asked if I attempted to send the accounting to the tenant this has sufficed as I explained they left me no forwarding address but most people forward the mail with the postal service. 

Good luck and take care

Sky mikesell

@Stacy Eisenberg  

No you do not have to file an eviction.  Just save the texts and take some pictures just to be safe and make your priority to get the property rented.

You can file against them in small claims for $150 or so but you will need to have an address for them to be served. The reality in the state of Texas is that you have very very little chance of collecting any judgement that you may be granted unless the own non-homestead property. Wages cannot be garnished nor seizing of accounts and such

You best shot which is a long shot is hand it over to a debt collector and get it on their credit and maybe they will want to buy a house someday and need to settle with you. Good luck!

@Stacy Eisenberg  I just had something similar happen on Friday. One of our best tenants (a tenant who plants grass and fertilizes it!), texted me on Friday and said he had to go back to Mexico for a family emergency. 

So...I went over to this duplex Saturday and they were completely cleared out. They had 8 more months on their lease.

I asked my other tenant if they had any friends looking and within 3 hours, I was meeting a potential new tenant....just like that.  

Keep your tenants happy and they'll keep you happy. We're all blessed.

@Jeff McCaskey  you're welcome sir!

That depends. I have never personally had to get a judgement on a tenant. (I'm a wholesaler, I don't own any units of my own just yet.) But, I have several friends who are landlords and we "talk shop."

One friend (lets call him Steve) has four triplexes and lives in one of the units himself. Because he's on site and does all of his own management and repair work he also just handles evictions and collections himself. He just gets a judgement and waits. Sometimes he collects and sometimes not. I do think he's tired of going to housing court so, last we spoke he's looking at getting himself a flat rate eviction attorney for his own sanity.

Larger institutions (think several large apartment complexes) tend to farm out their evictions via flat rate service and then pass them off to a collection agency. Or, so I've been told at meet-ups by those who would know.

But, it seems most people around here just wait for tenants to care enough about their credit to want the judgement removed. Because, judgments show up on credit reports for 10 years and are renewable for another 10 years (in many states) this might seem like a bad idea. Don't forget, these debts can collect enough interest (I forget how much) to generally offset the steady decline in purchasing power of the dollar (inflation) over time.

My gut says, I'd sell the debt to a reputable collection agency and be done with it. I'll see when I get there.

It's not worth it to spend time chasing down this tenant. 

The tenant left so your not out any time were the tenant lived in the home for free. Assuming the place is not trashed your actual damages likely will not be much more than the security deposit. You cannot sue a tenant for the remainder of the lease. Once the house is re-rented your damages from lost rent stop.

The time & effort it would take to get a judgement, then collect on said judgement is completely cost & effort prohibitive.

Focus your attention on getting your home occupied again as quickly as possible.

Another lesson in lease writing!  There always should be a clause in the lease outlining what "abandonment"  is. Did you have one? Just checked the statutes in Texas, mainly to see if there was much of a difference from there to Georgia, and it looks like there is. Texas has a much looser definition of "abandonment", and even allows landlords to remove certain personal property for non-payment of rent, it seems. So it looks like your text would get you off the hook for an illegal eviction. Here in Georgia, we even have to store any property found in the "abandoned " property even with an eviction! As far as going to court for a judgment, alas, the rules seem to be the same there as in Georgia-no personal service-no monetary judgment! So you can get a writ of possession, but unless you find an address for service, you're out of luck for a judgment.  

This is from the applicable statute. (my italics)

Abandonment
Many leases define the word “abandonment.” The lease will describe the circumstances in which the landlord can declare the rental unit abandoned and enter the unit and remove everything. A landlord who declares abandonment when there is no clear definition in the lease may be considered to have illegally evicted a tenant. An illegal eviction occurs when a landlord illegally denies a tenant access to the rental unit or a tenant’s property is removed without a court order and the removal: Is not the result of abandonment and/or is not the exercise of a landlord’s lien.

@James Wise   got it right.  Not worth your effort to go after them.  If you got possession of the unit back without a fight, then you are in good shape.  You have a month to get it rented before you actually experience a loss since you have a security deposit.

Keep the text message, take some pictures and get a for rent sign in the yard.

I do all my rental agreements month to month.  I make it clear to the tenant that if they need to leave for any reason, whether it's because they got a new job, or they just found another place they like better, or whatever, just give me 30 days notice.  Most of my tenants stay a long time anyway.

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.  I really appreciate it!

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