Can I still get money for damages to the property done by a tenant?

I got into real estate a few years ago and I bought a house in OH; I live in PA. I remodeled the whole house and did a lease option with a lady for a year. She couldn’t get financing after the year was up so we went month-to month. The rent stopped so I went out to find the home trashed. I couldn’t find her and had to sell the house for $5,000. I had to let my business go. I recently found her and I am wondering if I can still go after her for damages. She was in agreement to buy home for $49,500. Before I go and spend money on a lawyer, I would like to know if there is anything that I can do?

Asked on September 15, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It's worth consulting with an attorney about this matter. There are two different possible theories to recover:

1) Depending on how the agreement was structured, what happened when she could not get financing (e.g. did you let her of her obligations?), etc., you may be able to hold her liable under the agreement for the $49,500.

2) Even if you can't do the above, if she "trashed" your home, she may be liable in tort for the damages she did; you could then possible sue her for the dimunition in value (since it seems you did repair the home).

Everything depends on the specific facts, which only an attorney can evaluate for you. Many lawyers will provide a free initial consultation, so it's well worth your while to meet with one. Don't delay; there's a time limit (called a "statue of limitations") on how long you have to sue, and since some years have gone by, you could be out of time or, if not, you may be running out of time. Contact the lawyer immediately. Good luck.


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