I had a dead beat tenant too. Luckily, I was able to retain my property through a writ of possession. However, it took 3 months to have this resolved. Legal fees, mortgage payments, and loss of rent payments. Unfortunately (in Texas) there was nothing I could do. I was advised that the law protects the tenant against "slumlords" and I would just have to wait it out. I was told the same thing about the case going to civil court. More time and money from me.
I don't know of anything you can do but I will tell you, even if you go to court the only thing happens is the judge rules in your favor. Its just a ruling! The tenant will have a judgement on his credit history..that's it. You wont get your money back. Unless, you have a good lawyer who specializes in landlord/tenant laws and knows of ways to get him to pay. This is just based on my experience (Texas law).
This is a terrible situation. If you have a really good relationship with your attorney, you could see if they could take your case on pro bono. If not, maybe they will allow you to do a payment plan. Hopefully it won't come to a jury trial. I've dealt with a lot of evictions with low-income tenants where they have had legal aid get involved and it has always been a massive headache. There really should be a free law organization that helps out landlords with evicting problem tenants.
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