As much as we as landlords want to get our property back, we probably want our unpaid rent more! A common misconception about an eviction is that this is somehow going to get our back rent or help us get the back rent. Unfortunately, an eviction takes more money out of our pocket and requires more time, but does nothing to get the back rent paid.
None of these are sure bets, but there are several ways to attempt to collect your back rent:
- Bribe the tenants that if they pay you all the back rent, you will in exchange expunge the eviction from their record. While this sounds like a good idea, most tenants are not willing to pay up to several thousand dollars to get this done. They don’t see the value as most are able to rent new apartments despite an eviction on their record.
- Take them to small claims court and get a judgment against them. This is fairly inexpensive to get a judgment against the tenant. You simply go to court, file some paperwork, have the paperwork served and then go to your court date. Very similar to processing an eviction. The judgment will prevent them buying most major purchases like cars and homes and will hurt their credit. Unfortunately, you will only get paid if you work on the collection yourself or they need to pay you off to fix their credit. I only do this if I believe there is some chance they could pay me back in the future or they have a decent job.
- Lastly, you can hire a collection agency or an eviction attorney to go after the tenant and the money. While there are many different types, I have had some success with one recently that has been able to collect on a 3 year old debt. You can imagine my surprise when I got a check in the mail for $100. Not much, but more than I ever expected! Keep in mind that most collection agencies will charge you 50% of the amount recovered. I figure 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing especially when all I have to do is fill out some paperwork!
Collecting the back rent can be done, but you need to work at it and be consistent. If nothing else, it will make you feel better that you are not letting this tenant out of owing you money. I know I like that part!