Tenants Left 2 Months Early - Georgia

6 Replies

I've been renting my house to a friend and his wife for the last 2 years.  That was a mistake.  They were always late, had dogs, chickens, painted rooms absurd colors, and got paint everywhere.  About 2 months ago I sent a certified letter stating that we would nto be renewing a lease and I listed the reasons.  They left at the beginning of September.  Their lease was up October 31st.  They only gave a week notice that they were leaving.  I originally told them I would give them $350 for painting the shutters and painting the inside of the house, but after seeing the condition of the house I told them I was no longer going to offer that.  They owe me $1800 in rent.  My friend actually asked me when I was gonna give them $500 for moving out early.  They also never returned me the keys and garage door remotes.

My question here is what should I do?  I'm owed $1800 for rent, minus their $450 deposit and $150 they paid toward a refrigerator, but never finished paying on.  I'm also gonna have about $600 in paint to repair their mess ups, not including carpet cleaning.  Changing the locks was $70 and both garage door remotes were $40 total.  Should I file a police report for the keys, remotes, and paint damage?  Also, do I file an eviction to sue them or do I have to go to small claims court?  I do not know what their new address is.  Is there a way I can get their new address?

Thank you for your help.

My lease has an "improper termination" clause with a cash penalty that applies if proper notice is not given.  That would apply in this case.  So they would owe me this fee.  Do you have such a fee?   Or anything that says they get $500 if they move out early?

If you told them you would pay them for doing work (painting shutters), and they are painted, I would give them the credit for that.  I would also itemize all the charges to get the house back in rentable condition.  Send them a letter outlining all charges (painting, missing remotes) back rent. Deduct their security deposit from the amount owed.  Changing locks is your expense.  You probably cannot charge them for that.  You may or may not be able to charge for carpet cleaning.  Around here, if the carpets are more than three years old, you can't charge anything for them.  Even the IRS says flooring in rentals only lasts five years.  Send them a letter requesting payment for the excess.  If you don't have a current address, send it to their last known address and mark it "Address service requested".  If it's forwarded you will (or should) get a card from the post office with their new address.  If not, the letter should come back.  Put it, unopened, into your file.

In a similar situation (tenants bugged out, did not hand over keys), I was advised by my attorney to enter the property with another person and video the property.  If it was obvious they were gone (no clothes, no food, just trash left behind),  go ahead with cleaning it up and getting it ready to rent.  If not, do an eviction.

If you do not have a landlord/tenant attorney, you should get one.

You need to learn your state laws regarding landlord tenant regulations and small claims court.

My advice is that you file a small claims court action for the full amount you believe they owe. Assuming they have jobs and care about their credit you should be able to collect.

You claim they were/are friends....you should have no problem finding out where they are living through other common friends.

Forget the police report for the keys and remotes.   They will claim this is a civil, not criminal matter.  In addition, it is normal to change locks between tenants.  That's the price of doing business as a landlord.

Frankly, I've filed for evictions on tenants who have broken leases and moved out early.  Why?  Often it's the only "punishment" they'll ever see.  It's cheap to do it in my county (less than $100 for two people) and sometimes this will be required before I can further file for damages/owed rent down the road.  Often these folks who skip out don't leave forwarding addresses so it's impossible to serve them for a lawsuit for these damages.  The only punishment they may get is an eviction on their credit history to follow them for a number of years.

Make sure you provide documentation on the status of any security deposit within the time frame required for the state of Georgia (1 month after vacating the rental property).  Send this information to the last known address (your rental property), collect the envelope and keep it UNOPENED in your files should your former tenant later claim they never received this.  It's not unheard of that tenants who skip out owing rent/damages will later turn around and sue for their deposit.  If so, the envelope is your evidence of a good faith effort to provide this to them.

Lessons learned....NEVER rent to family or friends.  NEVER allow tenants to paint.

Gail

@Jon Holdman had good advice re: items you should itemize on the bill/letter to send to tenant demanding excess after subtracting deposit. That's a must. In addition to the mailing tip for the tenants he proposed, you might also try texting/calling either tenant that used to be your friend and asking where they want the deposit to be mailed after deducting any damage. If they are expecting their deposit to be returned, they might provide an address. Send them the itemized letter and be done with it. Or if they don't respond, you now have an address where to mail the certified mail summons for small claims court if you choose to go that route. Looks like you're chasing 1950 after taking the deposit? up to you if thats worth your time in small claims court with mixed results in recovering funds. You can get a judgement but getting the funds returned will be more headache depending on the jurisdictions process. Focus on cleanup and re-rent to reduce vacancy time as that will guarantee you more immediate income than you might ever recover from your prior tenants.

@Brandon Kraemer  Georgia law requires you to send the tenant a letter stating how you are applying the deposit and list damage costs within 30 days.  If you do not conform,  you might not be able to collect for damages and could have a judgment awarded against you.  

1: Take a lot of pictures 

2: Get a detailed list and cost of damages

3: Make a copy of all correspondence

4: Put a rent roll together

5:  Read Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook (on line)

6: Contact an attorney NOW

7:  Send the tenant the required letter before it's too late.  Send one certified and another regular      mail. 

8: NEVER RENT TO A FRIEND OR A FAMILY MEMBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

9: The next time a tenant is late "EVICT"..

10: Talk to the clerk at your local Magistrate court for info on filing a suit

Even though you only have one rental house are in business and need to get educated and learn how to protect your assets. 

Luck for you (and me)  Georgia is a LL friendly state.

Good luck

Thank you everyone for your replies.  I will call a lawyer today and see if it will be worth my time to pursue money for damages.  I will also ask about the letter for the security deposit. 

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