How to collect rent after evicting tenant

8 Replies

I evicted a tenant and i want to collect past due rent, evicting fee plus water/sewer bill, i went online and people say you have to go to the county office and apply at the small claims, i need some input, thanks

First, some questions to clarify your situation....

  • At what point in the eviction process did the tenant vacate?
  • Did you serve a Notice to Quit? What did the tenant do?
  • Did you file an Eviction Lawsuit?
  • Did you have a hearing before a Judge or Magistrate?
  • Did you receive a judgement in your favor? If so, did you receive a judgement for delivery of your property and/or a money judgement?
  • Did you need to file for Order of Possession and have law enforcement remove the tenant from the property?
  • How much does the tenant owe you? Did you complete a final accounting after the tenant vacated? 
  • Did you then send a demand letter itemized as to what is owed to you to the tenant at their last known address?

After completing these steps, you could try to collect by filing a small claims court case and/or taking the matter to an attorney or collection agency to assist you.

A collection agency will have an easier time collecting after you have a court judgement in your favor, but you will then need to sign the judgment over to them. They will take a percentage of anything they collect and there's no guarantee they will collect anything.

An attorney may be able to assist you with collection action via wage garnishment or bank account garnishment. To do so, certain criteria must be met and the law must be followed to a tee.

So, it's not a simple process. Unless the debt is for a significant amount, it may cost you more (time, money, anguish) than it's worth to pursue the matter. Unless the tenant is gainfully employed and can be tracked down, it may be futile.

At a minimum complete your final accounting and send the demand letter. Write "Return Service Requested" on the envelope. If the mail is undeliverable as addressed, it would be forwarded or sent back to you (the sender). If the tenant filed a change-of-address, then their new address would be provided to you as well. Then you can send another demand letter to the updated address.

One of my colleagues bird-dogged a tenant by sending him a Christmas Card every year with "Return Service Requested" on the envelope. Then in January would send an updated demand letter to the tenant. The tenant moved often and thought the landlord would lose the trail or give up. After ten years the tenant had enough and contacted the landlord. He said he couldn't figure out how the landlord always seemed to know his address. He finally paid the landlord for all that was due and the landlord stopped sending him Christmas cards. Crazy, but true!

thank you marcia for the info! As far as your questions: i did served a notice to quit to the tenant, tenant did not respond. I filed an eviction lawsuit, we had the hearing, she was present i won the judgement, judge told her to vacate the property and pay me the rent oeed plus filing fees, gave her a date and time to do so. She did not leave, so i went to file for an order of possession, she left the property the night before the eviction date, since i drove by the property everyday i kind of knew she was going to stay there until the last minute, i saw when she started moving and followed them, so i know where she lives now. I did a final accounting ,she owes me close to 3k, i did not send her a letter yet.

In my state, the eviction includes a judgment showing how much the tenant owes. That judgment can be used to garnish wages but I tried it a few times and had no success.

I typically take the following steps:

1. Write the tenant a formal letter detailing exactly what they owe and demanding payment within 30 days. The same letter also tells them we may accept a short-term payment plan (3 - 6 months).

2. If they fail to respond/pay, I hand it over to a collection agency. It costs me 35% of everything they collect and they rarely collect anything, but at least they do the work and I don't have to worry about it. They also report the individual to a credit reporting agency so it sits on their credit and hopefully stops them from scamming the next person.

My approach after receiving a judgment is to file in small claims court. With a judgement this is fairly simple, inexpensive and is often a automatic ruling based on the settlement. If she is employed you should be able to garnish her wages depending on your jurisdiction. If not you simply wait. In many cases people will move on with their lives and at some point in time wish to finance a purchase of some type. To do that they will need to settle with you on your court ruling. You will find tenants returning years later to pay up so that they can move forward with their lives. 

The additional cost of filing in small claims court is small and will often pay dividends years down the road. Well worth the time and effort in my personal opinion.

I consider these ex tennats to be criminals and believe they should be brought to justice by landlords. Simply walking away and letting them get off scott free is unacceptable. Do not develop a defeatist attitude toward your business.

Go to your local court office and a clerk will walk you through the process.

its really nice to know that there is a place where there is people that are willing to take the time to help you...... achieve  your dreams, thanks again!!

@Martin Zavala , I recommend looking at the resources available at http://www.donaldpbeck.com/, especially the "Down to earth landlording" book which gives a good overview and tips. Don's lease template is also used quite heavily in this area and across PA.

I am not associated with Don nor do I get any monetary benefit from these recommendations, other than been a satisfied user.

He used to be the president of a local REIA (before my time) and I think still offers live training courses a couple times a year.