I meant to get this blog out before I went on Christmas Break but things got a bit hectic, I apologize. Nonetheless, here it is now it’s a little story and some great tips on what you can do when your tenant moves out and leaves you high and dry on the rent payment.
Rent checks were rolling in for the month of December my Property Management Software sent an alert straight to my cell phone, handy I know, to notify me that the tenant at 123 Tree Street did not pay their rent. I called the tenant and left a message to inquire about the delinquent payment and they, of course, were unable to come to the phone so I had to leave a message. There was no reply so the next day I paid a visit to the house and there was no answer at the door. I could see in the house through the blind that had been broken (lovely) and could see that none of the tenant’s personal belongings were in the living room. I attempted to call the tenant again and still no answer. I unlocked the house and oh boy, the smell that came out of that place when the door opened about sent me to my knees. The combination of pet urine and feces, marijuana smoke, and general unhygienic funk were almost more than I could bear early on a Monday morning. I called in “hello, anybody home” no reply. I plugged my nose and walked through the home. The tenant had clearly moved, leaving only trash and a big mess. I could tell that this was going to be my lesson on how to collect money from an unreachable tenant.
I had two choices; I could 1. Cut my losses and forget about the rent, I did at least have the security deposit. or 2. Go after the tenant for the rent check. I decided that any decision made should be an informed decision so I began doing some research. Because my tenant had moved out the eviction process did not need to be initiated so the only real question at hand is how to get the rent payment. After doing a bit of research I decided it would be easiest to simply contact and hire a collection agency to handle the issue.
The collection agency first called the tenant and informed her of the debt. They also sent a formal letter, detailing the specific amount owed, including interest and late fees. The person to whom money was owed (me)and the reason the money was owed. The collection agency gave the tenant 30 days to contest the amount owed and if not contested that she considered it a valid debt. If the debt is contested then the collection agency would have to send verification of the debt. The collection agency also reports the debt to the credit agencies.
For now, I’m waiting for the 30 day period to be over or, preferably, to receive a check in the mail from my tenant. If She doesn’t respond but also doesn’t pay then I have to decide if I want to go the next step and take legal action. For now, I’m waiting and having the house thoroughly cleaned to get it ready for the next tenant. Wishing you all better luck with your tenants then I have had! Even after tenant screening, there are some not so great tenants that get in. Hope you all had a joyous holiday and have a happy new year!
Great article! So, did you use the security deposit to take care of the cleaning expenses? Are you in any way obligated to return any portion of the deposit if you were, by some miracle, to get the rent payment?
I am not an attorney and this should not be taken as legal advice.
In Florida, security deposits may only be used for excessive damage beyond ordinary wear & tear, not for unpaid rent. Even if a tenant moves out before their lease ends.
In Florida, you must file in court to collect the missing rent, get a judgement and collect from your AWOL tenant (good luck with that). As the author mentioned, you can hire a collection agency or attorney to handle this for a fee.
There are some landlords who figure they can keep the entire security deposit because if a tenant has left and won’t return calls then there isn’t much chance of them coming back to get their deposit. While I understand their point of view, it is not the law in Florida.
Your state may have different laws and you should contact an attorney for these matters as many states have serious penalties for landlords who do not follow their laws.
In Oregon, like in Florida, we are not allowed to keep the security deposit in lieu of rent. In this case however, because the property was left in such a bad condition the entire deposit + was used to get the house rent ready again. Thank you for the comment and your insight on the matter.