Anatomy of a landlord lawsuit against a tenant Part III
Often in landlord lawsuits against a former tenant, the landlord will prevail in the suit (assuming the landlord has followed most of their court's protocols to the letter as well as running a smooth and legal landlording business) After the lawsuit, many landlords then begin the arduous task of tracking down and collecting from the tenant. It's not very often in a landlord lawsuit, the landlord settles with a tenant but that is exactly what happened to me and here is what happened.
Before I jump into how this landlord settled with the former renter, let's give a background of the tenant and you will see why the lawsuit is being dismissed. The renter for this case will be referred to as "CJ."
I met CJ some 2.5 years ago when he and his daughter inquired about a rental. I met CJ and his daughter at the resident, talked with them, and immediately put them in without having performed any background check. I went with my gut and my gut proved me right...until the day he abruptly moved out.
For two years, CJ did okay as a tenant with two exceptions; He allowed his older son to stay at the property and the daughter caused a bed bug infestation. I reminded CJ if the son stayed, he was still responsible for him and what happens in the home. This came back to haunt him in early 2012, especially when CJ's son allowed his girlfriend to stay in the home too.
The renter caused a bedbug infestation but later wanted to counter-sue me for it!
During the winter of 2011, CJ and son called about a bedbug problem. I was very sure they caused it but not completely certain. I agreed to provide the chemicals and they did the work to eradicate the bugs. Much later while collecting rent the daughter let slip she moved out of the rental, in with her boyfriend, and back home but while living with her boyfriend she discovered a bedbug infestation in a couch they owned. CJ subtly elbowed the daughter to shush her up but I caught it.
Flash forward to April 2012, shortly after April's rent was paid, I get a call from CJ saying he's moving because his son has become violent and is pushing him around and he can't take it. He told me of how the son and his girlfriend were pill-heads and were stealing his money and robbing people too. CJ apologized immensely and I agreed to his moving out as long as CJ's son removed his belongings. Contacting CJ's son, I gave him 7 days to remove his belongings. He asked for a little more to which I did grant it. When that deadline expired I demanded he remove the belongings immediately.
The tenant's son dumped a fish tank onto the floors, ruining the entire first floor! The tenant wanted to counter-sue because he thought I said the carpets needed replaced anyway.
In early May 2012, I returned to the home to discover it relatively clean but the carpets soaked. It seems a massive aquarium CJ's son owned got turned over and flooded the first floor! I also discovered a massive pile of belongings and junk in the garage which I learned CJ's daughter had piled up.
Much later in the year, I sued CJ for the costs beyond his deposit of purchasing the flooring, hauling trash from the garage, and my labor expenses which are quite high. My time is valuable so my hourly charges are too! I did not include the expense of ripping out the old carpet and laying the new flooring as that was performed by others in lieu of a free month's rent.
Flash forward to this weekend when CJ called to discuss the landlord lawsuit against him. CJ announced his intention to counter-sue me on the grounds of the bedbugs! I reminded CJ that I was fully aware his people were responsible for it. CJ then said his suit would include the carpet because I told him it would need to be replaced anyway. CJ is referring to his walk-thru where I told him carpet in the living room was snagged up and needed replacing. Growing tired of CJ's blathering, I told him it was his right to suit his former landlord and we'll let the court decide.
CJ then asked about settling the landlord lawsuit outside of court. I inquired about his terms and he offered to pay half of what I was asking. I told him I'd think about it and phone him the next day. The next day I agreed to it to which CJ was elated. I was elated as well because half of what I was suing for is a little over what I paid out-of-pocket to haul trash and purchase flooring so I'm doing well enough.
While CJ was living in the home, I will admit that I liked the guy. He was an okay renter in that he paid on time, all the time. Other than the bedbug problem, he was a good (not great) renter. I suspect he was a bit lonely as times that we spoke on the phone he would talk of his problems and other events happening in the neighborhood. I highly suspected he would TRY to do the right thing and settle up on the lawsuit.
If there is a lesson to be learned here, one is to always ask for the top amount in your lawsuits against former tenants. You never know when the tenant will ask to settle against the lawsuit and you, as a landlord, can dismiss the lawsuit and still come out on top!