Practice Pointers: Is It Worth Pursuing a Claim for Money Against a Tenant?

Here is a question I am often asked from my landlord clients:  Can I recover the rent that I am owed from a tenant?

The answer:  it depends.  In deciding whether to pursue a claim for damages, a landlord needs to ask themselves two questions:  (1) is the tenant working and/or have any assets and (2) can the tenant be located.

The picture above is a spoof of the old adage: you can’t get blood from a stone.  In other words, if the tenant does not have documented income and has no assets, the landlord has no way to collect their judgment.  Even if the landlord wins a claim for monetary damages, it needs a source of income or asserts to obtain the money owed.

The second major consideration is whether the landlord is able to locate the tenant, after he or she has left the rental unit.  In order to bring any type of lawsuit, a party needs to be properly served.
Locating where a person is living is difficult if they do not own real property.  It is impossible to garnish the wages if the party has a job, but again, the the landlord needs to know where the tenant is working.

With this in mind, landlords should gave careful consideration to whether it is worth pursuing a claim for monetary damages against a tenant.  In many cases, the costs of pursuing this—in both the landlord’s time and legal expenses—will far exceed anything that can be recovered from the tenant.  Often, landlords are best off “cutting their losses” by getting the tenant as quickly as possible, even if that means forgoing any claims for money.