Although there are many rewards associated with being a landlord, there is also potential for major headaches. One positive aspect of being a landlord is that most often, the law leans in your favor. If you have been left with serious damage to a property that you own, you may have no other recourse than seeking the services of a reputable attorney.
In addition to being left with a big mess to clean up, you may have to deal with other issues.
- The ex-tenant may have skipped town, making him or her extremely difficult to locate.
- You may have an angry ex-tenant who feels that he or she is entitled to the security deposit back, and is miffed that you would even consider a lawsuit.
While you can go after a tenant for property damage in small claims court, there are limitations to the amount that you can recover financially. For example, most small claims courts have a cap of $5,000. Therefore, if the damages that you incurred are greater, you really need to consider hiring a qualified attorney.
Fighting Back Legally
When you hire a lawyer to help you recover property damages caused by an ex-tenant, the two of you will sit down to discuss the best course of action. Depending on the situation, your attorney may advise obtaining a judgement. The downside is that it may take time for the judgment to catch up to the ex-tenant, though you do gain some control over that person’s actions. For instance, if the ex-tenant ever wants to purchase a home, the judgment must first be paid off in full.
Another option involves collecting on the judgment by having the ex-tenant’s wages garnished. Unfortunately, this means that payment to you for the property damage done would be piecemeal, or that you receive a reduced payoff amount. But at least you would recover losses.
Part of the discussion with your attorney will be determining whether the ex-tenant is even capable of paying. If that individual is disabled, cannot or does not hold down a job, skips around from one address to another, or is someone that would continuously ask the court for extensions, the last thing that you want to do is throw good money after bad. Obviously, this is a tough call because it means that you will never recoup money for the damages, but long term, it may be the solution that makes the most sense.
Because every case is unique, there is no single resolution. After reviewing all pertinent information, an attorney with years of experience dealing with tenant property damage cases can advise you as to the right option. Typically, a lawyer will offer a free consultation. During that time, you should gain tremendous insight as far as what to do. However, if your case is relatively complex or there is a large amount of money involved, it is in your best interest to go ahead and hire the attorney, so that ultimately an agreed-upon goal can be reached.