Anatomy of a landlord lawsuit against a tenant

Sep 30 2012

As a landlord, I normally don't just sue any one tenant but I do hold three judgments against former tenants.  I had four but as I was in the process of finalizing garnishment on a former tenant, she filed and was awarded bankruptcy.  I have had people walk away from my rentals owing me and considered the matter to be over with as 90% or more of their leases were satisfied and the property left in reasonable condition.  Other times, as a landlord, filing a lawsuit against the tenant would have been trivial. 

One of my judgments I hold is the first person I put in a rental.  He was in for six months when the rent stopped coming.  He tried to string me along but I demanded he pack and move which he did.  I filed a lawsuit against the former tenant for $1,300+ which I won despite his actually showing up on the court date.  I took him to court after the judgment to enforce it to which he was paying me $50.00/month.  Turns out he moved several homes down and got into that landlord's pockets for $3900+ when the $50/month stopped coming.  I plan to renew his judgment before it expires.  I do have plans to take his case forward, having tracked him down at a local AutoZone.

The other lawsuit and judgments involve a former married couple and tenants.  They came in and stayed a bit.  Then the rent stopped coming.  Investigating, I found out the husband was violently abusive towards his wife.  She got fed up with it and sic'd the cops on him.  I'm happy she did that but unhappy she abandoned the property and left it a mess.  I filed a lawsuit against both tenants.  I tracked the woman to another state and lost track of the husband.  He's either dead or in prison but I won't give up on him.  I plan to renew my efforts to track them down and seek garnishment as well as renew their judgments.  I will never allow my judgments to expire until they're satisfied.

Now to my new lawsuits!  I put a guy into a rental.  He stayed for a couple of years and allowed his 27 year old son move in.  The landlord / tenant relationship seemed good.  Then the son brought in his nasty girlfriend.  The two love birds were pill heads and pushed the dad around quite a bit starting in the 2nd quarter of 2012.  The dad bailed on the home.  The son left his belongings in the home which included a very large aquarium.  Turns out when I told the son to get his crap out, the tank got turned over flooding the home.

The carpeting was toast and the floor boards had to be dried and bleached as well as the floor joists. The daughter came in at some point and moved a TON of stuff to the garage where it stayed for me to haul to the dump.  I'm suing him for $861;  The cost of replacing the flooring, hauling trash, and labor.  How exactly did I track him down:

  1. I knew the daughter moved back to the state in order to live with the dad.
  2. The daughter's credentials were on the original rental application so I could use that to find her.
  3. I tracked her down using various methods and got confirmation from a utility that it was in her name.
  4. I confirmed the father was indeed at that address.

The other suit belongs to the tenant I put into the home after the guy mentioned above split. I put a couple of youngsters (19 years old) into the home (Yah, what was I thinking?) The rent stopped two months into the lease and I demanded they leave in a timely fashion or face a lawsuit which also depended on the condition of the home after they left.  Turns out the young people turned the home into a party house complete with recent convicts and drunkards staying there.  Trust me when I say these people were the scum of their generation and that's me trying to be kind.  None of the people staying in the home during this period were tenants.

When I came to the home after they left, I was stunned to see graffiti over an entire bedroom!  Someone also broke my door frame and there was damage to the garage and interior of the home.  Again, trash was left behind and I had to haul it to the dump.  I'm suing her for $2901.

How I found her especially since she left no forwarding address or had her mail being routed to another address:
  1. I had spoken with her grandpa a few times and had his cell number
  2. I was able to track down the approximate location where the cell phone was purchased
  3. I found out Grandpa's full name and from there his location
  4. The tenant led me to believe she was moving in with him
Graphitti in rental

It's my intent to chronicle how these cases goes and my attempts to collect.  Remember, these people split and, I'm sure, think I have no idea where they are.  I know exactly where they are and will issue a summons by the end of the first week of October 2012.

Be sure to read the follow-ups to this article:

Part II

Part III

Part IV

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