What to do about damage caused by my former tenant?

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2011

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What to do about damage caused by my former tenant?

My tenants told me they could not keep up with the rent and were to move out. I havenot filed an eviction since I know they are not longer living in the house. However, they have not moved their stuff out either. The house is a mess, there is no electricity, there is left over food all over (lots of ants), trash thrown in the backyard, door frames broken and above all they left the doors unlocked. None of them return my calls and they “are not” at work when I tried to reach them. What are my resources?

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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You can't collect for normal wear and tear, but you are entitled to compensation for 1) damage done by the tenants to the house (e.g. broken door frames) and 2) the cost of "extraordinary" clean up, such as removing trash or debris left behind, professional cleaning out rotten food, exterminating if they caused a pest condition, etc. If there was a securiity deposit, you can take the cost out of the deposit; or if there was no deposit or if the deposit won't cover all  the costs, you can sue the tenant, including possibly in small claims court. Of course, if you can't reach them, or if they have no money, it may not be worth suing, but that's a practical, not a legal, issue--legally, from what you write, you may well have a cause of action or legal claim against them. Good luck.

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