Collections Against Tenants

Collections against tenants are cases brought for owed money or damages to a rental unit. Prior to bringing one of these cases, a landlord should carefully review the pros and cons of one of these lawsuits, and the process of pursuing one of these actions.

What Can a Landlord Seek Against a Tenant?

A landlord can seek unpaid rent against a tenant, along with any damages that a tenant cause to a rental unit. If a lease or written tenancy agreement provides for it, a landlord may also be entitled to collect attorney fees that a landlord has accrued in dealing with a legal matter.

I’m commonly asked if a landlord can pursue such a collection if the landlord never accepted a security deposit (or returned it to the tenant at the end of the tenancy). The answer is yes: a landlord can pursue such an action regardless of a security deposit.

Types of Collections Against Tenants

A landlord has several avenues for pursuing a collection against a tenant. In an eviction, in addition to seeking possession of the rental unit, the landlord is entitled to collect owed rent for a rental unit.

Outside of an eviction case, a landlord can pursue a civil lawsuit for any and all damages from a rental unit, including owed rent, condition damages, and attorney fees (in certain cases). For cases up to $7,000, a landlord can pursue a small claims case against a tenant. For any greater damages, a landlord will need to pursue a regular civil action.

Practical Implications

Although a landlord may be able to pursue a collection against a tenant, the decision to do so must be made carefully. Even if a landlord wins their case, they may not be able to collect owed money against a tenant. This is an important considering in deciding whether one of these cases is worth it.

A landlord should also consider whether a tenant has potential claims against a landlord. If they do, a tenant will almost certainty raise them against the landlord in response to a collection case (known as a counterclaim). A landlord should avoid bringing a lawsuit if there is a strong chance that the tenant has viable claims against the landlord.


If you need assistance with a collection case against a tenant, contact me for a consultation.