Collecting Damages and Unpaid Utilities

2 Replies

I have been a landlord for 10+ years, and I have never attempted to collect unpaid rent and/or damages from a tenant. I would now like to try to collect unpaid utility bills and damages from a tenant, but I do not know where to start.

Here's where I stand...

The tenant moved out on July 31 leaving unpaid utility bills and damages of $723.29 (in addition to his security deposit). I understand this amount isn't excessive, but I feel like I need to take action so that I can understand the process better when this occurs again.

I provided the tenant with a move-out letter and inspection report on August 2. He viewed the paperwork via DocuSign the same day, but he did not sign. As listed on his lease and the letter, he had five days to dispute the findings (no response). I now plan on sending certified paperwork via USPS on August 10, as I have his new address. I intend to include a demand for payment within 30 days. If payment is not made by then, I would like to attempt to collect.

The apartment he rented was in Georgia. He now lives in Tennessee. Can I proceed with a small claims case in Fulton County, Georgia (the apartment location)? If not, do you have suggestions? Again, I understand that it is not a large sum of money, I just want to better understand the process, and I feel that the best way to accomplish this is to do something.

Thank you for your time.

Yes you file in the county where the property is located. Since you have his address it shouldn't be a problem. Each state has different rules on how you can go about collecting the judgement so you would have to look up state specific laws or speak with an attorney. 

I see a potential problem in suing in GA as opposed to going where the debtor is. You may get the judgment in GA but how are you going to enforce it? The debtor and any assets he has is now in TN. You would end up in TN to enforce the judgment and end up filing in TN anyway.

On the flip side to that, if you get a GA judgment and then go to TN to enforce it, TN generally won't over rule the GA judgment and should tell the tenant that if he has an issue with the judgment (such as he doesn't owe it or was not responsible for that much damage) TN should tell him he has to go back to GA and litigate the issue there.

You could just file in GA, get the judg,ment and then sit on it, hope it shows up on his credit and some day he wants to do something about it.

Either way could be more expensive and trouble then it is worth in this particular case.