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Tenant left without paying - what can I do?
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Question:I've had this tenant renting my house for 5 years and since the property is out of state and the tenant seemed to take care of everything himself, I did not pay too much attention to the house. I actually had not seen it in 3 years. Now he skipped two months' rent payment, when I tried to call him, the phone line was disconnecte. I flew over there and found the place trashed, junk all over the yard and house, holes in windows and interior walls. What can I do? I do have his social security number because I ran a credit check and a criminal background check on him before he moved in.
Answer:Hopefully you have a rental policy on your home insurance. That will cover the vandalism.
You could try to file a judgement but my experience is that it can be difficult to actually collect on it, especially if the guy left town.
Instead try to sell the junk he has left if it seems to have any value (start a yard sale while you're at the property already, fixing things up).
Then find out his forwarding address and send him a letter that states the amount he owes, the period he has to begin repayment, and that if he doesn't start paying you will forgive him the debt. If you don't have his accurate new address, just mail it to the old address.
Assuming that he does not reply and pay, forgive him the debt and report the forgiven debt as income to the IRS. Yes, your tenant suddenly has unreported income. You may want to make sure to include his social security number with your letter to the IRS.
This will give you the satisfaction that the IRS will hound him for not reporting those $2000 (or whatever he owes you) and you don't even pay anything for this pleasure. You're out of those $2000 anyway.