6 Ways to Find Your Deadbeat Ex-Tenants

Written on October 15, 2015 by , updated on May 3, 2016

Finding Ex-tenantsIt’s often difficult (or darn near impossible) to find and collect from ex-tenants who owe you money!

Knock on wood … I prefer to spend my efforts screening tenants rather than chasing them. But if you do have a tenant who has gone missing with a debt owed, take comfort in knowing that there are some things you can do to collect on a judgment you’ve won.

1. Always Collect a Rental Application

The rental application allows you to run a credit and background check on an applicant to avoid getting a deadbeat tenant in the first place.

So if a tenant you screened skipped out on money owed to you, you can use the information you got from the rental application, lease, and contact sheets to find them. Personal references, job, emergency contacts, type of car and license plate number, and Social Security number can all be used to find a deadbeat later.

Once you’ve tracked down this tenant and have demanded payment of money owed, this person might give in right away and pay up. Anything’s possible.

2. Use the U.S. Post Office

Using the last known address of your deadbeat tenant (which is probably your rental property), mail a letter addressed to your old tenant at that address. Before mailing, write on the envelope, “Address Service Requested” as such:

Address Service Requested

In doing so, your letter will be forwarded to your old tenant’s new address, and the post office will let you know what that new address is. This method works only if the person left a forwarding address, however.

If you do get the new address, send a certified letter with a copy of the judgment against him or her, and demand payment.

3. Use an Online People Locator

There are a variety of websites that will help you find someone based on publicly available data. Some are more accurate than others, but rarely consistent.

For a small fee, you might be able to track down a former tenant with their data. Some of the leading options are:

There’s also a site, called SkipEase that has lets you search multiple sites at once. I’ve not tried it, but it seems promising.

4. Hire a Judgment Recovery Agency

If you can’t find your deadbeat tenant, or if you found them but this person still refuses to pay, consider hiring a specialist in getting your judgment. And no, we don’t mean Tony Soprano!

There are legal ways, such as using a judgment recovery or a debt collection agency. These people are experts in getting people their judgments. Of course, judgment recovery and debt collection agencies charge you, so you won’t recover all your judgment, but some is better than none.

Even if you use this type of service, there is no guarantee that they can get your money. So consider choosing a service that charges only if they collect, which is generally a percentage of the money they recover.

Some deadbeat tenants are “judgment proof,” meaning that they have no assets, aren’t working, or are working but are making very little. Just because someone is judgment proof now doesn’t mean that will always be the case. You can wait and try to collect again later in the hopes that this deadbeat finally has some assets or a job.

5. File an Abstract of Judgment

This method is a long shot, but it’s easy, so you might want to do it.

You file an abstract of judgment against your tenant with the county. You need to know the county your ex-tenant is in to know where to file, though. You then file at the courthouse. Doing so puts a lien on any real estate your deadbeat tenant has bought or will buy.

Sometimes, you can also put a lien on other types of property, such as a car or a boat. The lien becomes an issue only when the person tries to sell the property, but in some cases, you can force a sale.

Check with an attorney for more information.

6. Don’t Give Up

It’s important that you don’t give up too soon for a couple of reasons. One, you want to get all or, at least, some of the money owed to you. And two, by pursuing and finding this deadbeat tenant, you’ll make it more difficult for this person to rent another place and do this to someone else.

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43 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Bull

    My tenant didn’t fill the oil tank ,and heater ran out of oil and now I lost my heater ,and my pipes burst ,and froze. It cost a lot to fix . He disappeared ,and I have to find him.

  • Linda Gagliardi

    Hi thanks for your help, I live in Chicago and my tenant had to go to hospital for heart he was there for 3 weeks, when he came back he told me he quit his cleaning job and going for disability, ( it could take years before he get his checks).
    I have the property for sale and I want to service him, and in the mean while showing his unit to potential buyers. So far he has been cooperating, but when I serve him eviction papers he is going to get mad.
    He hasn’t paid May, 2016 rent, the tenant is on a month to month, my question is do I have the right to show his apartment so I can sell the house?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Linda,
      Why don’t you give him a notice to vacate? If he’s a month-to-month, you can do that any time. If he doesn’t leave, you would then evict. Seeing as he hasn’t paid May, however, you might want to start the eviction process instead.

      You can show the place before you sell. Here’s another post on that: https://www.landlordology.com/tenants-rights-selling-a-rental-property/

    • John

      You’re really trying to put a disabled man with heart problems on the street and you’re surprised he isnt cooperating? And that he isnt paying you? God have mercy on your priorities.

      • Craig

        John, I’d love to respond to your overly generalized “save the whales”, “feed the children” and “help the homeless” attack on Linda for protecting the property that I’m sure she worked diligently to obtain. Please take the time to think about the financial burden and liability a house can create on its owner; thereby potentially transferring those stressors to potentially put that owner on the street for someone’s, albeit unfortunate, but situation unrelated and especially not caused by the owner.

        If I’m wrong, I truly pray that you can slap me in the face with “I told you so” by opening your own 501c3 as a landlord. That would be truly amazing. Until then, don’t judge.

        • JP

          I am currently faced with a tenant who skipped out owing me 14K. She left a house full of belongings as well. I was a sucker: she told me that she and her four kids would be homeless and that she would pay asap. She would literally pay 400 here…700 there and the monthly rent was 1450. I wish I had gotten rid of her the first time she didn’t pay. Now I am faced with the stress of working full time and having to clean out her things, as well as filing all the proper paperwork to get a judgement. No doubt she didn’t pay the oil or electric bills either which I am prob going to have to pay before I can put them in my name while we clean up what she left behind. Don’t judge people for protecting their own interests! I Should have!

          • Rob Hays

            Hi JP. I too am a landlord and I unfortunately did a gentlemans agreement with a tenant and he moved out owing me half a month rent and trashed the place costing me about $600 to clean up myself. But how on earth did you let someone live there long enough to have 14K in debt before having them turn up missing?

      • K

        Can you afford to provide free housing to others because they are in a bad situation? Probably not, if so why don’t you ask for information and provide free housing to this tenant. That is the problem many people think landlords are rich and don’t want to pay!

      • Amy

        She’s not running a homeless shelter, she’s a landlord, and she sounds concerned for her tenants situation. That doesn’t mean she can afford to pay his housing costs. If you want to save all the disabled people with heart problems, do that on your own time. Don’t shame her priorities for working hard and trying to get what is owed to her.

  • MK

    Our rental property is in MN (currently reside outside of MN) but we are dealing with a state heavily favoring tenant rights. I am absolutely lost on how to find this deadbeat and we are out thousands of dollars. I want to file suit but what good will that do if I cannot serve them? I know their work information but cannot serve them there since they work out of home.
    Any ideas?? I’m so sad and frustrated over this!

    • Philip Secondino

      You can go to court to get a judgement for the amount of rent owed, the repair of all damages, the disposal of items left by the tenant, and cleaning costs to make the apartment suitable for renting. Bring photographs and documents to the hearing. Then submit a copy of the judgement with your taxes and declare the loss. See your tax professional for details.

  • Donna Fleming

    My tenant violated all terms of lease – rent payment, property damage, illegal activity, etc. After 1 year of trying to work with her, opted for month to month and gave her 90 days to move. A call from her lawyer asked for 60 additional days and not evict. I agreed if she would pay current damages and rent on or before the first so we could part in peace and without pursing legal actions. She immediately placed a TRO on me (and I lived on property rented) and was arrested for parking in my own drive! Never a criminal, never threatened or violent towards her. Was told my requests for rent owed was considered harassment. Something is wrong with our legal system who protects negligent tenants vs honest landlords!

    • Karen

      You can’t just keep going and demand for money if the tenant don’t paid on the 10th you need to serve 7 days notice to pay rent or quit, they know you mean business and if they don’t you go to the constable do eviction.

  • MDlandlord

    What to do when hired management company does not go after deadbeat tenant? I’m guessing an employee of company knows deadbeat tenant.

  • Jack Hatchett

    Black and white. Good vs.evil. Tenant vs landlord. Are you kidding me? It’s rarely if ever that simple. I’ve been a tenant and a landlord, and being one doesn’t make me a deadbeat or give me the authority to judge others. Your condescending attitude is disturbing.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Jack,
      If a tenant doesn’t pay rent and then leaves without notifying the landlord, they are stealing. Some things are black and white.

      Of course, this assumes the landlord is providing a habitable place. If there are problems, tenants need to notify the landlord and give the landlord a chance to fix them. They can’t just continue to live somewhere and then leave without paying rent. If that happens, this article can help landlords recover money they are owed.

      • MK

        Thank you for posting about this Laura- you are exactly correct. We did provide them with a clean, beautiful (newly renovated) townhome to live in. Our tenant lied, stole, damaged and breached their agreement with us, ended up costing us thousands of dollars in damages which we now know will NEVER see again.

      • DJ

        So what should I do in such case.My tenants left the property without paying the rent and I dont have any rent agreement except their IDs copy and refuses to pay rent .How should I get my money

  • Jean Stanish

    Tennant moved out after no paying me rent for months and damaging property. How do I go about locating tenant to serve papers. She also had quit her job, so I don’t know where she works. I do have her license plate number. Jean

  • SW

    Tenant lived in my rental for 2 years. The second year she was a month behind on the rent every month. Then her grown son moves in without notifying me or paying rent. The Lease was broke and it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. What’s worse he is a REAL ESTATE AGENT in the “CHICAGO” area. I tried everything to find these people but he knew exactly how to HIDE. He gives his profession a BIG BLACK MARK. I can only hope that one day, people find out exactly what type of people he and his mother really are!!!!

  • Mimi

    I found my ex-tenant’s work place, who was evicted from my rental property and has judgment of $9400. What’s the best way I should do please? Thank you!

  • Mast Ghazi

    Please kindly let me know How can I found the name and address of a x tenant . my property was rented by a friend of mine who had my power of attorney. He collected rental payments and disappeared. I need to find the tenant in order to claim from my vanished friend.
    Thank you so much

  • sheila

    Ronald Wallace of Louisville KY, was my 82 yr old mothers renters. he conned her out of over 5000.00 not counting damages. had people living in garage and another person in house. they were paying him. He was not paying her. Im trying to find his new address. no luck so far.Im going to put a garnishee on his FORD paycheck yes FORD! He is a con man

  • Linda

    tenant signed a new annual lease and then moved out a month later. They stated that they would pay the month’s rent for July but instead did not pay it at all and just moved out. I tried to work with them and agreed to let them break the lease provided that they pay July’s rent. Tenant stated in a text that she would pay July’s rent if I sent an email stating that she could do so. I did this and asked her to acknowledge, which she did not. She moved out today and left keys in the mailbox. Can I now sue her for the amount of rent due for July even though she has a security deposit? She broke the lease basically a month after she signed it.

  • gloria

    i have a tenant who owes me 14k…she is supposedly moving the 15th of this month…id like to serve her with a judgement on her paycheck..is this something i can do? im in a position as to not to mess with her until she moves because i need her out of my house. shes got drugs as an issue..her son was paying her to pay the rent and she wasnt. found heroin in my shed..i just want her done…but i kinda want to be the thorn in her side for a while…whats the best way…because shes a real POS and just cant bounce around. she has two babies too…

  • Manny

    I’ve been a Landlord for 12 years, I’ve seen some bad tenants but this girl which I felt sorry for to have Lupus and let her keep one dog supposedly a service dog. In 5 months she managed to destroy the apartment which was newly renovated. She won’t take the dogs out, the commercial business downstairs start to compliant about roaches and maggots falling from her apartment!! She just recently left with unpaid 2.5 months of rent, the apartment is full of garbage where she was basically living in garbage. She didn’t leave a note, didn’t return the keys, didn’t even bother to clean her refrigerator. No address to be able to reach her, no response to calls, emails, text at all. I love this website maybe I can expose her yes/no?

  • christine brown

    my tenant TRASHED my property here in SC after being evicted… any advice? we have already taken photos and all

  • Joe

    Landlords esp the ones I have dealt with recently can be deadbeats, scum bags and totally deserving of a tenants skipping out! Seriously there are always two sides to a story and some not ALL landlords are two faced controlling sociopaths who treat their tenants like children. Even a good tenants who are quiet, clean and pay the rent on time.
    Deceptive leases are not only hurtful to tenants but psychologically abusive. Its funny how in most states theres a 30 day no clause eviction which protects the landlord yet a demand of last months rent is required when they kick good tenants out for confronting their malicious psychopathic behaviors.

  • Denita Kneeland

    Hello, My tenant has left my property without notice, she can’t be reached by phone numbers, her social worker found out she hasn’t paid light bill since October, and water since August, and she has changed the locks on main doors (not barred outside doors. The section 8 program has terminated her voucher for payment and no box at post office any longer. The social worker is not allowed to give out any of her family addresses. How can I locate her to give notice to vacate so I can rent to another tenant? What is the Alabama time frame to vacate the premises? How long is eviction process?

  • Mary Guthrie

    Prison administrator leased house, left for weeks at a time. Advised me she returned from vacation to find air not working,cieling and water damage and mold. Cost for mold remediation and drywall 4200.00 I told her several times air would not cool less than 20 degrees from outside 100 plus degrees, I installed 2 more fans. She turned air down and froze up unit. I said she owes for not mitigating harm. Had she been home,damage would have been less. Is she responsible for at least part of the cost because she was gone for 8 days with air on? Also broke microwave,wall damage,ceiling damage,sprinkler damage. Gave her rent back for no air,gave her last month rent off, she still wants deposit back.Threated me with harm 1st week she was there.

    • No Fool

      I’ve had rental properties for about 15 years. Boy! What a learning experience. I tried using property managers for a while. What a mistake. I had to manage the property managers! One tenant walked out with the washer and dryer and the fools cut him a check for his deposit after they claimed they did a walk through. In the end he paid for the appliances. LOL. Your lease agreement has to be ironclad. You wreck my property, you fix my property. You don’t have the money? Well. you’re going to have even less when I get done with you. I had one tenant that thought she was going to bully me into submission. She wrecked my property and thought she could lie her way out of it. Foolish girl. I guess her attorney set her straight!

  • John Keith

    My tenant owe me three months rent and got them vacated with a lot of trouble and i have put a small claims court but I don’t have an address to server the summons. What are the options to find their address and serve the court papers.

    What are the other options to collect my money ?

  • George Varghese

    I used people finders service and payed for the current address and got the previous Known address!!!!!! Please don’t waste your money for the people finders service.


    my tenant not paid rent for 6onths he promised to pay back in installment he left I do not have their new address I have phone and e mail address they do not pick up how to find their address I have notes to pay un paid rent with interest they replied and inform us every time family emergency not to pay back rent

    will you please help us[


  • Dean Schrickel

    Tenant complained a lower window leaked during heavy storm. I put Z channel above the window, replaced a storm door above the window and took other measures and I have the receipts. Tenant advised, through email on 1st of December 2016 that the problem appeared to be corrected and I have that email. Fast forward to June 2019. Tenant habitually late on rent response to a rent request about the lower window still leaking. I contact home adviser, a contractor finder, that same day, June 2nd 2019 . My area was hit with a tornado so all contractors are occupied. I notified tenant by email I would be collecting rent on Monday 3rd of June 2019. I set another email from the rental property I would be coming by to repair tile damage tenant caused

  • Mama rose

    Tenant has been been late with her rent for 11 out of the 15 months she’d lived in the property. Never paid October and from the blue emailed me a notice on October 20th that she is vacating the property on the 3rd of nov. I told her I would be there at 2pm that day for a walk through.
    On the 2nd, she left the key at my agents office and texted telling me where the keys were. Never left a forwarding address etc. she is only 3 months into her renewed lease.
    Left the house in really bad shape . Spent thousands trying to fix it so far.
    What should I do?

  • Rob Hays

    Hi JP. I too am a landlord and I unfortunately did a gentlemans agreement with a tenant and he moved out owing me half a month rent and trashed the place costing me about $600 to clean up myself. But how on earth did you let someone live there long enough to have 14K in debt before having them turn up missing?

  • Mya Glubpanny

    Tenants highly recommended. Stopped paying rent after two months. No word. No explanation.
    Just stopped.
    Had to start the eviction process. Why? No clue.

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