Is it worth it to try to collect?

6 Replies

A renter recently just up and disappeared on 3/1 without paying rent. Lease still had 3 months left @ $500/mo, and there was $3k worth of damages (broken window, 2 damaged doors, holes in walls, broken cabinet doors, marker/ink all over the walls from kids drawings, snuck a pet in against the rules/regulations and feces on carpet, blinds ripped up) plus typical cleaning and turnover fees.....only had $450 in security deposit which I of course held. She left and didn’t bother sticking around to turn in keys so I posted notices, etc. and after several days and 4 attempts to contact, finally removed all the junk, rekeyed, and fixing up and now have a new renter set to move in 3/15. I was able to do 1/2 the work myself so only paying actual out of pocket expenses of $1.6k (around $1k when you factor in security deposit)....would it be worth the hassle to try to hire a lawyer or collections agency to try to collect on the full amount (lease stipulates I could hold her accountable for full term of lease which would be another $1500 in loss rent, but then again I really will only be missing 1/2 month rent w new tenants going in 3/16). Plus I don’t think she has many assets to collect against. At this point I’m assuming I just chalk this one up as cost of doing business and cut my losses and move on to the next renter, but I also don’t want her to be able to just do this to the next landlord.....what are your thoughts?

For the rent most, if not all, states will only allow you to collect for the days it was vacant. So basically you’d sue her for $250 in rent.

You can try and sue for the damages but you have to have a lot documentation for it. Plus from the sound of it she’d never pay even with a judgement. I’d just let it go.

This is one of those damned if you do things. You can get a judgment against the tenant, but it will be almost impossible to collect. If you do get a judgment against them, it will show up on their credit report, which could make it harder to rent in the future.

But as far as collecting the damages money, I would kiss that goodbye.

Thanks for the feedback. Confirms what’s I was thinking/feeling....

@Mark Hughes , I had a property manager that always filed a judgment because she knew it would go on their credit report and was relatively inexpensive and easy to do in her locale. Sure enough, 3 years after a judgment was gained for one of my properties, a tenant came back to settle up in order to get the collection removed from their credit report. Makes it very difficult for them to get loans or rent elsewhere with and outstanding judgment on their credit. This impacts many aspects of their lives that they don't account for. i.e. job interviews, phone service, utility service, etc. You just need to determine if the juice is worth the squeeze. 

I'd go for the judgement for sure, but not count on collections. Also, I'm curious what your local laws say about abandonment. How do you know for sure she abandoned? What if she returns next week asking why you changed the locks, and gives a reason she had an emergency funeral?

Also, you have to send a letter to her last known address itemizing why you kept her security deposit. That way she can't come back later and claim you owe her the security and penalties. When the letter arrives at the property (her last known address), just keep it on file. If she has forwarding turned on at the Post Office, then she will get it.

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