Collecting on back rent after an eviction can be an ongoing ordeal. If you sue for collection successfully and obtain a judgment against a tenant, you may receive the legal right to garnish wages or seize assets from a bank account. Alternatively, you can sell the back-rent debt to a collections agency for a fraction of the total amount owed. Both paths are relatively difficult, particularly because tenants can flee the state, change bank accounts, take a cash-only job or declare bankruptcy to avoid paying debts.
Preparation for a collections lawsuit is the most important part of the process. Ensure that you have followed the law properly when pursuing the eviction of your tenant. Gather all documentation related to the legal relationship between you and your tenant. Make a copy of the original lease. Copy and organize any correspondence that you had with the tenant regarding rent. Make copies of your monthly statements that demonstrate that the tenant failed to pay the rent owed. All of this is important information for proving your case.
Selling the Debt to Collection
If you want to avoid the hassle, legal fees and risk of going to small claims court to collect on your back rent, you can use the documentation that you've gathered to sell the debt to a collections agency. The agency will handle the details of reporting the debt to the major credit bureaus and will pay you for the right to collect the debt. The main problem with this is that you will only receive a fraction (typically less than 10%) of the total amount owed, unless for some reason the former tenant has significant assets to repossess.
Small Claims Court
Suing your tenant can theoretically earn you the back rent owed to you. In many cases, you will want to hire a real estate lawyer to assist you to increase your chances of success, particularly if the rent owed is in excess of $5,000. File a complaint with the small claims court of your county. Contact your local department of housing for a copy of the form. Attach all relevant documentation requested by the county. Mail a copy of the complaint to the tenant at the last known address. Use certified mail so that you can get a confirmation that the tenant received it and was served notice. Once the court hearing is scheduled, you'll be able to present your case. If you followed all proper eviction procedures, the judge may find in your favor.
John Hewitt began freelancing in 2008, writing about subjects ranging from music to stock trading, the energy industry and business. His ghostwritten work has appeared all over the Web. He attended New York University, pursuing a bachelor's degree in history.