Tenant - thrashed home before vacating, no forwarding address

18 Replies

Home: 3BR, 2Bath; Built in 2018.

Tenant staying for 3+ years. I served 60 day notice to terminate lease. Last day of lease 5/31. Vacated on 6/1 late evening.

Thrashed the home --- Walls with crayons, broken dishwasher, Shower Handles, Fridge Handles, Really Messed up Floor, Clogged Kitchen sink etc.

Labor, Material and Cleaning Expenses far exceed Security Deposit. 

I don't have Tenant's forwarding address but know his place of work.

What are my options?



I'll bet dollars to bagels this damage was not caused during their last day, last week, or even their last month of occupancy. These tenants occupied for three years without anyone holding them accountable.

Turn the place around.

Apply their deposit (if you have one).

Learn from this and never repeat it.

You could take them to court, but you'll end up with a judgment and probably never collect a dime of it.

You MUST inspect at least once a year and should NEVER renew a lease for a problematic tenant. If you had inspected this two years ago and saw how they were living, your damages would probably be a fraction of what you're currently facing.

Ravi, you need to let it go. Collect all of the receipts, take multiple pictures, video and even have someone walk through with you. You learn now, and you will be more careful. 

I have a different take from those before me:  document/photos and go after him.  File a Small Claim's Lawsuit (so inexpensive to file and you can do it online in most municipalities); use his employer's address as his current address. There's nothing like being served at work to get someone's attention.  There's a great chance that he will not show for the hearing and you will be awarded a default judgment.  With that you can garnish his wages or wait until he finds out that he can't buy that next car, can't get a decent apartment to have him surface and settle.  

You're running a business. It's important to establish a practice and reputation for not allowing tenants - whether former or current - to disrespect your property.  I'm sorry this happened to you; it's his turn to realize that it's hard to overcome stupid.


@Ravi S.

I agree with @Patricia Steiner . I would file the claim and take the judgement but depending on how much it is can go after him or help any future landlord that they might try to rent from. If the landlord is on top of things and runs background will see the judgement thus making it hard for them to lease. I had a tenant send me a check years after they moved out and left half of their belongings behind because we took them to court. Funny how someone will settle up when they want something new but cant get it because their past catches up to them.

Best of luck 

Originally posted by @Ravi S. :

@Nathan G. , @JERRY BERMAN , @Patricia Steiner , @Luciano A.

Appreciate prompt response and thanks for the great advice. 

I'll document everything and File a Small Claims Lawsuit with his Employer's Address.

I like the employers address thats clever and to the point. 


@Ravi S. , did you screen the tenant, criminal background check, credit check, past rental verification, employment verification. I use National Tenant Network NTNonline.com and have not had any problems since.

Pay someone to restore the house to good condition.

Don’t you go over there and do it yourself. Don’t get angry and don’t fantasize about revenge. You learned a lesson for a few thousand dollars. Let it go and don’t make that mistake again. We all learn that lesson the hard way. Now you can call yourself a “seasoned investor “! KNOW WhO YOU ARE LEASING TO.

Documentation is important, filing is easy, winning is easy collections is the hard part.  This all depends on the type of housing, the type of tenant but rich/poor collections is the hard part.  Knowing where he works may help with collections but I would be sure to do everything legally.  Clearly they didn't care about trashing the home while they lived there.  Also, make sure your insurance is up to date.

Personally, I would turn it over to a collections agency, that is a whole nother set of laws/rules etc....once you get your judgement I would turn it over.  We have done that and the first step is generally very easy, garnish a bank account.  After that, it becomes a slog.  Remind yourself what you do for a living and let a pro handle it for you.  

Besides the floor depending if you gotta replace it all or a section, rest of the stuff won't be that bad. 3+ years is a pretty decent time, i would just take the entire deposit and leave it be. For a 3 bd/2 bath home (2300 sqft) I was able to hire someone to paint the entire interior for 4,000 labor+material. That included any drywall patching hole patching to look like new again. I doubt you need to paint the entire interior being 2018 so maybe you can do the a paint yourself if its small areas. 

Having been to Small Claims Court both in Montgomery County, TX and Kern County, CA against tenants, be sure to serve everyone named on the lease, document your damages, and pay a process server to avoid any bonehead mistakes on your part that could be construed as harrassment. Consider paying a private investigator for a basic report (about 28 pages) and $500, to know who you are dealing with.

Record the judgement. Refile the judgement before it lapses. Every expense here is a tax write-off. 

Prepare for the fact the judge will expect you to mediate a settlement. If you do not reach settlement in mediation, by all means proceed to court. 

Future lenders will force the payment at some future date. 

Follow everyone's advice to know your renter.

@Nathan G. . my current landlord has that "inspection" clause in my lease. I'm in Texas for the first time renting. Previously I rented in Kansas and never saw it. I think it's important that investors protect their investment so unfortunately lesson learned at a horrible expense. Just incorporate it in your next lease IF you go that route.

They charge a small fee to become a new member then a per application fee. I think they have an online application for your tenants and then give you a accept/ deny advise score. Learn about their services then have yourself a written policy that every perspective adult occupant be screened by NTN, even Section 8 voucher holders. This may help you if you ever have to deny a member of the protected class. Run your business like a business. Quickbooks is my financial software. I own and self manage 15 Single Family Homes in Dallas Ft Worth.

There is wording in the lease from our property management team that allows collection & legal fees be added if they are needed.  As others have said, it starts with good screening and timely inspections to try and find a problem as early as possible.

Have an Atty take them to court 

It goes on their record 

If they ever apply for a loan it will show up to get the loan they will most likely need to pay you first 

I have gotten some nice pay checks from this years later including interest and Attys fees