Ex Tenant Volunteers to pay damages - accept or sue?

11 Replies

My now ex tenant, the one detailed in earlier posts concerning his drug dealing, has been in touch. I had written a demand letter for over $5k of damages to the unit, backing this up with invoices for painting and flooring. He has offered to pay the full amount in $500 monthly payments over the course of the next year. This is beneficial because as a drug dealer he has no conventional employment or pay cheque that could be garnished, nor does his income run through a bank account that could be garnished. 

He is likely to go to prison for a year or so and this would interrupt payments. I have looked up the Limitations Act in Ontario and it appears that I have two years from the date of finding the damages to file suit in small claims court. The tenant is worried that having a judgment recorded against him from a property management business will show up on his credit report and deter landlords from renting to him. Hence his motivation to pay.

In the circumstances I have drafted an agreement for him to sign in which he agrees that he is liable for the full amount of damages and will make monthly payments as outlined. If these payments cease we will sue.

Can anyone see a downside to this arrangement? The way I see it at present I could get a judgment and it would be unenforceable due to lack of employment income or bank account with funds in to be garnished. If he keeps to the payment plan this is found money to offset damages. I can always sue later if he reneges on the agreement. Does anyone see a flaw in this arrangement or have advice?

Incidentally I read an article describing landlords' problems with tenants and it said most landlords will never encounter drug dealing or similar, but will encounter non payment of rent. I have never had arrears of rent with any of our tenants, but I have had a drug dealer. Perhaps we are due for a quieter time now.

I don't see a downside, since you can still sue if he doesn't pay. It's fantastic that he has offered to pay it off, for whatever reason. Most landlords never get any money back.

He's going to prison for a year and he thinks that his credit report is going to be what prevents him from renting elsewhere?

I'm not really seeing a downside to making that arrangement, especially in writing. It will cost you a little bit of money to sue in small claims court and could waste valuable time if jail time is coming up soon anyway. Get what you can from him! Sue if you have to, but it sounds like he's willing to pay without that happening first. 

I see no downside with this agreement.  It is a contract, and you can sue him for breach of contract on it later.  You can also use it to send to a collection agency, if he doesn't pay.

And your Statute of Limitations to sue him, would start at the date of the last payment, from what I recall.  

I would not be in monthly contact with a drug dealer who owes you money. For all you know, people could follow him and think you are someone to worry/deal with. Drug dealers have a lot of cash. Obviously, he's an unsuccessful dealer if he's off to prison, but, nonetheless, he has cash. I would either ask for $1,000 a month to speed up your exit strategy with this guy, or settle on a one time cash payment of $3,000. (or $750 a month or settle on some other lump sum). I see more complications in your life the more you deal with this guy. Get out asap.

@Nancy Curran He would pay by mail to a UPS Store mailbox. I don't plan on meeting him again. It is conceivable that he has got a real job although the detective we spoke with did not think that was very likely. I agree, he is not someone I want to deal with very much. But as the other posters indicate it seems to be relatively rare that a landlord would get paid anything in these circumstances.

The issue of prison interfering with his rental chances is an interesting one but I think easily handled by an enterprising tenant: they could just say that they were living with friends or family, hence the gap in their rental history. Landlords in Canada do not have the same access to criminal records that US landlords do. We screen based on the credit report. If there is a judgment on there from what is obviously a landlord then other landlords would steer clear. I believe this is why he wants to keep this off his credit history.

If the drug dealer is going through a rehabilitation program (on the outside or inside of prison), it may also serve him well to make amends. If he is following The Blue Book and receiving guidance in a 12-step program, I can understand his stepping forward. Be supportive.... he is doing the right thing in trying to make amends and starting to take responsibility for his past actions.

Updated over 3 years ago

I meant to say the "Big Book", not "Blue Book."


I would accept the gesture and see where it takes you.

The court system has a very patriarchal bias of tenants and often expects little more from them you would a 12yr old ... it can be a frustrating and painful experience as a landlord (an I am told Ontario is worse in this manner than here in the east).

@Stephen E.  I might also add, if you can avoid legal law suits it will be much better for all parties involved, including the court system. Aim for a win-win. Everything is negotiable.

Thanks Roy and Marcia, this is good advice. He may be on the road to recovery from his addictions and he may be trying to make amends. From what I can tell from previous posts New Brunswick is a haven of common sense compared to the sometimes crazy legal environment landlords face in Ontario. I would like to avoid court if I can. I have sent a proposed contract outlining payment terms and have asked for the first payment to be mailed to our mailbox. We shall see what happens.

Surprise, surprise! My drug dealing ex-tenant mailed me a bank money order for $500! And it arrived the very day after I had seen a collections company representative who said if he didn't have a job collecting would be well nigh impossible. My tenant fears for his credit rating and is in narcotics anonymous which is a twelve step program. Step 8 is "We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."

Lets see if the checks keep coming but in the meantime this is found money and he has paid just under a third of the bill for completely repainting the unit. After painting the money goes to paydown complete replacement of carpet. We have indeed been harmed, and he should make amends.

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