Should I pursue a judgement from my previous tenant?

12 Replies

I had to finally evict a tenant that owed me more than 7k in back rent.  I tried to work with them as much as possible so they could stay in the house.  In the end they had no remorse that I paid their bills.  I gave them the opportunity to just leave the house and clean it and I wouldn't evict them but they refused to leave.  I then told them if they just cleaned the house I will not seek a judgement.  Not only did they leave the house as a disaster they took all the appliances.  Should I just move on or spend good money chasing after bad money?

Why didn't you get the judgment from the judge at the time of eviction?? You need to know judgment laws for your state.

Here in GA we can get  a judgment at the time of the court hearing for the granting of the writ to evict IF the tenant answered their court summons or signed that they were personally served.

If either were not completed then you have to serve them and take to small claims court to get win a judgment. Winning the judgment is just one step in the process. Taking steps to try and collect and timeline involved is a whole other matter.

Being that it is over 7k you might have to go to superior court as some small claims have a 5k minimum or lower.

The tenant you inherited did you get a good file on them from the seller landlord?? You need to determine if they are judgment proof or not. If they have crap credit already and profession that is hard to garnish then you are wasting time and money to pursue them. They will likely in that case just build up junk debt from everywhere and go chapter 7 and blow out your judgment anyways.

You need to talk to an attorney in your area on evictions. Some landlords I have heard in some states of attaching to tax returns and other things but I think what can be done varies by state.

I can tell you that getting an attorney to send a letter to them to pay up is a waste of time. Collection companies are also a waste of time if the tenants credit is already trashed.

A judgment recovery company might buy your judgment once you are granted one IF the tenant is not judgment proof. Usually they only pay upfront 10 to 15 cents on the dollar because of time and costs trying to collect. There is another option where they will pay for court costs etc. and then split proceeds with you 50/50 over time with what they collect. This is not to get the judgment but to try to enforce it after you have already won it in court. If the tenant is judgment proof then the judgment recovery company will not want to spend any money on it.

In that case you do not want to spend a lot of time and money chasing this deadbeat tenant throwing more good money after bad. You can sit on the judgment and hope one day the tenant will want to clean up their credit and their life and come to you for  a settlement.

No legal advice given.    

Just curious, but is there not a criminal complaint that can be filed for the larceny of the appliances?

Not saying the police would do much, if anything, but is that not a crime?  Does this get swept up into civil damages like damaged drywall and carpet?  And I don't mean in the take the easy road, don't waste your time sort of way like with determining if you will try to get a judgement.  I am seriously curious if this constitutes a crime.

Thanks

Originally posted by @Chris Simmons :

Just curious, but is there not a criminal complaint that can be filed for the larceny of the appliances?

Not saying the police would do much, if anything, but is that not a crime?  Does this get swept up into civil damages like damaged drywall and carpet?  And I don't mean in the take the easy road, don't waste your time sort of way like with determining if you will try to get a judgement.  I am seriously curious if this constitutes a crime.

Thanks

That's a good point!  If nothing else, I'd consider contacting the previous tenants and notify them in writing that the appliances are your property and you expect them returned within 5 business days.  And that, if they are not returned, you will be forced to file a theft charge against them.  The police might not take it seriously, but the threat of arrest might motivate them to at least bring your stolen property back.

You've learned a hard lesson.

A day late on rent and the eviction process should begin. You're in a business, not running a charity.

In FL there are two types of eviction.  With or without a judgment for money owed.  Quickest way to evict is forget about the judgment.

Sometimes you have to learn a very expensive lesson. You could pursue it but I think that would just be a lost cause and more aggravation. Just make sure that it is on their credit and maybe follow up on the criminal charge again not recommended. They may "return" them on your front yard or break into your house. 

That's a lot of money for a tenant to owe.  Personally, I'd do whatever I could to collect it....especially considering they actually stole your appliances on top of already owing you such a large amount of unpaid rent. 

I'm not familiar with collecting on judgments in Texas, but according to this website it sounds like it can be difficult: https://www.traviscountytx.gov/justices-of-peace/jp1/collecting-judgement

If nothing else, I'd turn it over to a collection agency to see if they could collect it.  At least it'd go on their credit reports and maybe some day down the road it'd affect them enough to where they'd pay it off.  Here's a couple places that do that sort of thing if you decide to go that route: Rent Recovery Service and Debt Reporting Service.  I haven't used either personally, but would definitely consider it if/when I have a tenant leave owing me a large amount of money.

Good luck.

Originally posted by @Kyle J. :

That's a lot of money for a tenant to owe.  Personally, I'd do whatever I could to collect it....especially considering they actually stole your appliances on top of already owing you such a large amount of unpaid rent. 

I'm not familiar with collecting on judgments in Texas, but according to this website it sounds like it can be difficult: https://www.traviscountytx.gov/justices-of-peace/jp1/collecting-judgement

If nothing else, I'd turn it over to a collection agency to see if they could collect it.  At least it'd go on their credit reports and maybe some day down the road it'd affect them enough to where they'd pay it off.  Here's a couple places that do that sort of thing if you decide to go that route: Rent Recovery Service and Debt Reporting Service.  I haven't used either personally, but would definitely consider it if/when I have a tenant leave owing me a large amount of money.

Good luck.

 I agree!  I would also get the judgment, though, unless it was ridiculously expensive.  For one, it will be a way to warn other landlords.  Any landlord who does a credit check and sees a judgment from a former landlord - isn't going to rent to this guy.

Plus, a judgment can be renewed, generally, every 10 years.  So, unless he files bankruptcy on it, it will hound him forever, and you just may be surprised one year, when you get a check from the collection agency.

You don't need a judgment to get the collection agency after them, but with a judgment, there would be no expiration date on the debt - unless they file bankruptcy.

Also, if they ever want to buy a house, I believe they have to pay off any judgments, as the judgments can become liens against the property.

Another thing to keep in mind, is if you don't sue them within a certain time frame, you lose the right to do it, under the Statute of Limitations, which is normally around 1 - 3 years.

In Texas, an eviction suit is just about eviction. Suit for damages has to come separately.

You should have never let the rent get that far behind, but you know that now.

I've had a tenant do about $7000 in damages to my property. I did the eviction to put that on his record, but pursuing a judgment suit - while I really felt like I OUGHT to do it - was a lot of time and money to invest for little likelihood of gain. If I had loads of money and a lawyer on retainer, I would definitely have done it, because justice demands it, dammit! :) But in my real world, where time and money are limited, I settled for putting an eviction on his record.

That's an expensive lesson to learn! I personally would want to recoup the money that is owed to me, especially for the appliances. However, you do have to consider a few things. First, will the time, effort, and money spent attempting to recover your losses be worth it? Or, will you spend more money than what is owed? If it is not worth it, you might want to think about proceeding. However, you also have to remember that this is business. You went above and beyond what is necessary or even expected of a landlord. You absolutely have the right to collect upon your debt. I wish you well in whatever decision you make. 

@Cory Boren

@Michael Hayworth

Cory- Did you go through the entire eviction process ?  If so,  did you ask the court for possession and rent owed ?

Michael-  You are correct that in Texas that you need to sue separately for damages and late fees separately but you will receive a judgment for rent due during the eviction suit 

In Texas, once the 5 day appeal period expires, you can get an Abstract of Judgment for the amount of the judgment for $5 and file it with the County Clerks Office and it will be good for 10 years.  Actually, you can file it in any county if you think they have moved to a different one

Suing for Damages and Late Fees Etc- This is a separate suit that will need to be filed and the cost to do in small claims court for amounts up to $10,000 is aprox $175 for 2 defendants.  You will need to know where they live or work currently so they can be served

Collecting a Judgment in Texas-  Extremely difficult !!   You cannot garnish wages and the list of exempt property that could be confiscated is large, meaning most tenants are "judgment proof"

Cory-In your case,  I would probably pursue the small claims action as the investment of $175 is not much and the 5% chance of so to collect is probably worth it

Appliance theft-  The police will look at the theft as a civil matter in most juristictions

512-293-3885

Hand the whole file, with a ledger including every charge possible, over to a collections company that charges a percentage if they collect. They will also report it on credit so the rest of us will know to deny them. 

This is easy, free, and helps all of us. And you can move on. 

@Cory  I'd get the judgment and then sit on it. Wait til he's not expecting it.

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