Tenants owes more than Security Deposit

12 Replies

I had tenants move out while past due on rent (1.5 months).  I mailed the "official letter" to their new address saying the SD would be kept and that they still owe additional money, but I've received no response (they haven't responded to email either).

What's my next step? They moved out of state if that matters.

You sent them a letter stating how much money they owed you and you have applied it to the Security Deposit.  Plus you billed them for the additional amount of money they owe you right?  

Did you go to court and evict them?  Or did they move out?  I'm thinking they just moved out.  So go file in small claims court (after a suitable amount of time has elapsed for them to have paid you) a suit against them.  Get a Judgment and then put a lien on their property (if they still don't pay) or turn it over to a collection agency.

Nancy Neville

File the necessary paperwork to document how you legally took all the deposit to cover losses.  Since out of state, go ahead and file a cheap small claims case against them and get a quick default judgement.  In the next 10 years or so, you are likely to get the balance due.  It will cost less than $100 and will be a good, low pressure exercise for you to learn with.

Most likely, in the next 10 years or so, they will want to buy real estate and will finally come clean and pay you what is owed.

I didn't evict, but they moved out early.  Per the lease, if they move out early the SD is kept as damages.  Technically, I think they owe 1.5 months, but I cut them a break (since I got new tenants) and am only charging the 1/2 month not covered by the SD.

They don't own, so can't put a lien on a property.  Can I still get wages garnished in small claims?

Keep in mind that most, if not all, lenders will require all judgments to be settled in order to be financed for a home.  So if these renters ever wanted to buy a house within the next 7-8 years (depending on the date of the judgement) they will have to settle up with you in order to do this.  This is why I think it would be wise to take to small claims and get a judgment on their credit report.  You will get the last laugh when they come begging to make a deal with you when they are trying to buy a home.  In the mean time, keep the juice flowing on the money owed and wait for them to call you. 

Don't spend too much time looking for them, take them to small claims, get a judgement that will be on their credit report..they'll come looking for you if they ever try to buy a car or a house..It's not much about getting the money back at this point, it's about coming out on top..

Go to the local magistrate for where the property is located and file for a judgment (that is where small claims go in PA).  You might have to somehow serve them to get the judgment - that is probably the biggest challenge to this. 

If you are in Philadelphia there is no magisterial district court, so you go to the landlord tenant court there. Might be similar in Pittsburgh. 

@Craig C.

Even if you aren't able to collect the judgment, having the judgment on file will at least help other Landlords make better decisions about these people. Almost like Karma/paying it forward. That's assuming they search judgments independently, anyway.

Hi @Craig C. please see the link below for information on how and where to file small claims.  Note that the municipal court  that hears small claims is not the same court that hears tenant/landlord matters.  You will need to serve your former tenants.  If you have their address this can be done by mail.  If you can't locate them, then you can't fill a case with the small claims court.