Can I sue a property management company?

I have a rental property which was under a lease for a year. The tenants left 8 months early. They did notify the PM that they were moving. The PM has shown it 4 times in the past 2 months and still no tenant. It is not advertised anywhere. According to the contract I signed with them, they are

responsible for finding a new tenant and the previous tenants are responsible for the rent until a new tenant is found. The tenants are also responsible for the utilities electric and gas until that time. Without utilities the pipes will freeze given the cold weather, which insurance will not cover due to

neglect. The PM sent me this month’s rent, taken out of the deposit, but charged me about $120 to remove the tenant’s trash after we had talked about taking that out of their deposit as well. That was in no way my responsibility. After requesting a copy of the lease several times and a list of other

paperwork and receipts, I have yet to receive a response. I want to sue the PM for breach of contract on several items. There is no more deposit and utility bills are still unpaid, again the tenant’s responsibility but I have no proof the PM is trying to collect. I want to sue them for about $30,000 which is the cost of lost rent, average utility costs, trips back and forth to take care of this, many phone calls, unanswered emails, any legal fees and undue stress. Can I sue, for how much, and how do I prepare? Should I terminate the contract and move on or wait until this washes out?

Asked on October 24, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) First, you cannot sue for your stress or time: the law simply does not allow recovery for those things in "breach of contract" cases. 
2) You cannot sue them for breach of contract for failing to file a collection lawsuit against the defaulting tenant unless the contract said they have to do this: if the contract did not require them to take legal action to collect, they have not breached their contracted.
3) You can't sue the property manager for not paying the utility bills, unless again the contract required them to pay these things. You can only "breach" a contract by not doing what the contract obligates them to.
4) If they are not making reasonable efforts to find a new tenant, you may be able to sue them for breach on that basis, if the contract requires them (as you indicate it does) to do this. But the law accepts that they cannot simply conjure up a new tenant--they can try to re-rent the space, but sometimes units do not rent no matter the efforts you put in. If they are making reasonable (i.e. what the "average" property manager would do) efforts, that's all the law reqiuires and they would not be liable.
5) You can (and should) pay the utilties yourself.
6)y You can sue the tenant yourself and/or ask the property manager to sue for you, but would have to pay the cost of the lawsuit (e.g. a lawyer's fees) unless the contract requires the PM to pay this.

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