Q &A : maintenance issues and late rent fees
November 1, 2011
Q: I was wandering if a tenant can be held responsible for the care of the lawn. Such things as broken sprinklers and a dead trees if the landlord doesn’t pay for water
or lawn care?
A: Yes. The tenant is responsible for any damage to and about the property that is over and above “normal wear and tear.”
Q: Can I take late fees for past months’ rent out of the deposit when the tenant moves out even if no late fees were requested at the time the rent was late?
A: Yes again, as long as the provision for late fees is written into the rental agreement.
Q: We sued ex-tenants for back rent and other services not per formed and won the suit. The defendants did not pay by the time they were supposed to and they moved out of the state. Original suit was in Indiana, where we live, and they moved to Washington state. We only won $387 and I only have one house, but it does make good money. Is there any way to collect the money? We cannot go there and get the money. The guy doesn’t have a job where he pays taxes, if he is even working at all. Maybe we should chalk it up to experience, but I’m in the mood to never let them forget me and their mistake of screwing me over.
A: Here’s what do to do.
Step one: You probably got your judgment in small claims court. In many states small claims court judgments are not automatically docketed and registered so that they show up on a credit report. Go to the courthouse and see if yours was. If it was, you can go on to step two. If it wasn’t, ask how to get the judgment docketed and registered and do it. It usually involves paying a few dollars for re- cording it.
Step two: Now the judgment will appear on the credit report of your recalcitrant tenant for 10 years. After ten years you can renew it for another ten. During that time if and when this individual wants to buy something on credit or rent a property from a landlord who pulls a credit report, he will be turned down. In order to buy anything on credit you will have to be paid off and the judgment shown as satisfied.
Step three: (If you really want to get him) You can transfer the judgment to the state of Washington. An attorney would probably charge you around $100 to do that, but you might be able to fill out the paperwork yourself by getting the appropriate forms at a legal stationery store. This one will require some work.
Then, if the tenant ever acquires any property in Washington, you can attach it.
Step four: (If you really, really want to get him.) Forgive the debt, but file a form 1099c with the IRS, called a “Forgiveness of Debt.” That is considered income for the person who has the debt forgiven. Of course your ex-tenant won’t report the forgiveness of the debt as income and is likely to be audited by the IRS. What fun.
Incidentally, judgments earn interest accruing to the plaintiff on the unpaid balances of about 9 percent per year in just about every state.