Landlord / Tenant Matter to recover losses from excessive property damage

I am a landlord of a long time tenant who was given a 3 month notice to move if they did not want to purchase the home. She did not so I gave her 2 months extra time to move. The property is in another state and I had not seen it in years. I assume that she working at home and was a clean professional. However, recently when I saw the property it was trashed horribly. I expected to do paint, replace carpet and minor repairs but the property had been trashed with pets and no cleaning for a long time. I’ve never gone after a person for damages. Is is worth the cost of a lawyer to go after her for damages in excess of $4000? I have her phone and email but not her new address in the same city. I have photos and collecting all receipts of work being done on the house.

Asked on June 16, 2017 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you are in a different state, it is probably not worth suing her. You will have to travel for the lawsuit--one at a minimum, for the trial date (assuming that the case does not settle), and possibly more, if the matter extends across more than one day, is adjourned, etc. So you will have to incur (presumbably) travel, possibly hotel, etc. costs, which you cannot recover in a lawsuit, and will also presumably lose time from work (which again, you cannot recover). Since you cannot be 100% certain of winning or--even if you do win--of getting every dollar you believe you entitled to, you could be paying (or giving up in lost work time) hundreds or thousands of dollars for a chance (maybe a good chance, but still not a guaranty) of winning up to (but not necessarily all of) the repair costs. 
The above is without an attorney; even without a lawyer, suing someone nonlocal to you for $4,000+ is often marginal, due to the travel costs, time, etc. involved. If you do hire a lawyer and pay legal fees (which you can't get back in court), you will almost certainly in total spend more than you hope to get back (since you'll *still* have to travel to testify in court--the attorney has no personal knowledge of the situation and therefore cannot testify).


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