Tenant vacates early, get judgement?

9 Replies

I've noticed recently one of my agents are having some performance issues with tenants, mainly tenants look to be walking all over this agent, they dictate to her whatever they want, breach leases to move somewhere else, etc. It's so much, that we see at least 1 per month out of 100 units, so I have instructed her she will take everyone or anyone to court for vacating early in an attempt to try and help her put her foot down, and control the issue.

She followed the process and took a few people to court, and at least one of the cases that I am currently aware of was dismissed by the judge on the bases the tenant moved out. They went as far as dismissing past due rent for the last month the tenant was in the property, but also the follow month that it was vacant due to the tenant bouncing out with 3 day notice. The agent keeps reminding me of this when we talk about these type of tenants, saying that the judges are now not permitting us to collect on these items... To be clear, we are not trying to collect on the full contract, only the rents owed for the time a tenant was in the unit, or owed rent while we where trying to get a unit rented due to a tenant vacating a unit without notice.

I've spent my years working landlord cases in Virginia, so I am very comfortable in a court room on this topic, and I know from time-to-time a judge may dismiss a case that would normally be won by us. I also know overtime the courts shift their views on things, normally when new judges get seated. Without me having to grab a suit and go hangout in a court room, to take the courts temperature in Virginia on the topic, I wanted to see if anyone else in the last 12 months or less have been running into the courts dismissing, or not dismissing, your lawsuits for rents owed between the time a tenant vacated a unit and you got it rented?

I don't know about your local court system.  But in mine a judgement is a waste of time / money as I need to have their employer or bank account to garnish and they just change jobs / banks to avoid it.  

So it would cost me about $1000 and 15 hours to go through the process and it isn't worth it

Tenants will move when they want to move, regardless of what a lease says. I suggest using month-to-month rental agreements. Tenants tend to be better about giving proper notice when it's easier for them to move on their time-frame instead of yours. M2M also makes it easier to manage, as there's no "lease renewal" drama, changes to the rental agreement can be made as needed at any time of the year, and it's easier to terminate the agreement if the tenancy goes south.

Also, spend some time with the agent who is representing you. Do you and she really want to put your energies into taking people to court? There are better ways to lead people and manage a business. There are better ways to be a community player than by using legal remedies and court resources. 

If I were in your position, I would try to find the root cause of the problem... it could be the agent's management style or not. Perhaps it's rooted in your policies and procedures. What does the agent think is going on? What do they think would resolve the problem?

Thanks for y'alls input, the question is about the current courts position in Virginia on the matter of winning debt for the time vacant, not really about cost, drama, or garnishment.

Frankly I don't care if a tenant breaches their lease, as long as we get what's due per the terms of the contract in court, collected or not. The process of junk debt collection is another topic in itself.

I'm in CA and only do M2M for just this reason. Its extremely uncommon for the court to hold the tenant financially responsible for the remainder of the lease if they bail early...it just doesn't happen. So the only benefit of a true 1 year lease is if the tenant thinks the court would actually hold them accountable if they left early, so they are scared to leave....and that's rare too.

And say by some miracle you win...the % chance you will see a dime of that $$?,,,pretty low. So I can see trying to use the court as a scare tactic, but it rare that the tactic will work

Longer term leases for private SFR rentals protect the tenant a TON more than they will ever protect the landlord

This is exactly why I only invest in “red” states. Not trying to be political, but the states mentioned generally seem to think stealing from a a property owner or breach of contract don’t count when you’re a tenant. I still recall one particular judge telling my tenant in court, “ you signed something you didn’t understand dear, it happens to a lot of people.” She then ruled against me and returned the tenant’s full deposit despite full documentation of damages and lease violations. It sickens me.

Normally not worth it, you could have to return the deposit if you get an unfavorable ruling. There are other options, if your planning to grow bigger, or are big. Hang onto your files, catalog it and come back in 5,10,20 years type thing. I buy them from old landlords when we buy the properties. All leases, past and current, it’s a nice side business most ignore.

 Landlording is a business where you lend people assets in the place of lending them money, without any collateral. It has limited collection options, and functions identical to junk debt lending.

We use a law firm as a collection company to harass the living life out of people and ping their credit for failing to honor their contract. We normally take this route vs court if they skip town as we don’t need approval from a judge.

We use the same method on people after eviction by the court as well. One must understand the tenants don’t have money today, but one day they will, so it’s a waiting game. 

We normally process ours once a year. For example we just submitted 2017‘s last week, $64,000 worth of it, that will roll forward till it’s paid off or we consider it non-collectible. 

We keep doing this every year, year after year. We collect some of it, and the attornies take their cut.. it’s better than just writing it off.

When you understand your not a landlord, your a lending operation, That changes the entire paradigm.

Good luck!

Updated 8 months ago

Whoops. wrong thread. Sorry about that, BP app glitch I guess...that post was for another topic. Cant delete it now. 😂​

Whoops. wrong thread. Sorry about that, BP app glitch I guess...that post was for another topic. Cant delete it now. 😂

@Levi T. I didn't have a problem getting a judgment and collecting on it in Virginia a couple of years ago when I had a tenant default on me.  I used a local attorney and got every cent owed including interest, court costs, and attorney fees.   I recently obtained a judgment against a former tenant here in Georgia. I garnisheed her wages and have received $2100 of the $3500 she owes me.  Her employer failed to answer the garnishment and signed a consent agreement to deposit in my checking account $200 a week until I'm paid in full.  

I have another tenant that moved out last year and I'm going after them next month. He's been with a large company for 35 years and unless they file bankruptcy I'll get my money. I have 5 years from when they moved out to sue them.  I'm just been waiting,  assuming they're getting their finances in a little better order. 

I screen my tenants pretty good and the few times I've been dumped on I've found that my screening wasn't as good as it should have been.  Most of these deadbeats have done this before and the prior landlords just threw up their hand and said: " you can't get blood out of a turnip".  I don't rent to turnips.  I only rent to people that I feel I could collect on a judgment if I needed to.  We have an obligation to at least give future landlords a heads up on what type of person they are looking at renting to.  

I can't imagine having to deal with some of the courts that others post about.  Thank goodness Georgia (maybe not Fulton County) and Virginia are landlord friendly states.   

@Levi T. - you don't say which courts you are in, but in NYC we go to small claims after the tenant moved out. We have never won in Landlord/Tenant court, and win in Small Claims. If you are in LT court, I'm not surprised by the rulings.

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