As a landlord, do I have any legal recourse for damages if I have no security deposit?

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As a landlord, do I have any legal recourse for damages if I have no security deposit?

I rented a home to a couple for the span of 22 months. Our agreement for animals was 2 dogs and one cat. I found out from neighbors after they had moved out that there were at times up to 8 dogs and 4 cats at the house at any given time. My upstairs carpet is ruined along with various pieces of furniture. This is the embarrassing part. Having trusted them, I knew they were scraping to buy their first home and I stupidly allowed them to use their security deposit as last month’s payment. Do I have any legal recourse in small claims for damages or am I out of luck?

Asked on February 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You do have legal recourse.

When a tenant damages or destroys a landlord's property, either negligently (unreasonably carelessly) or deliberately, the tenant can be held responsible for the cost. If the tenant doesn't pay, the landlord can sue--while the security deposit is a handy way to recover money, you can take the tenant to court if there is no security deposit, or if there is one, but the damage exceeds the size of the deposit.

Your idea of small claims court is a good one, since that would minimize your costs.

If you sue them, win (i.e. get a judgment in your favor), and they still don't pay, you could potentially put a lien on that home they are buying, or garnish their wages.

 


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