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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63 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Angela M.

    The lease was due to end on 2/28/2020. My tenant sent notice that she’d be moving by the end of January. She did not pay fees for January. Just gave excuses that she would be paying late, then I filed for eviction. We showed up in court, plead my case, and was awarded a judgement. She was given 30 days to pay. Nothing received. Now what? The family totally destroyed my property. The carpet was ruined and had to be discarded. The appliances were grimy and damaged. The walls were disgusting, and the place was infested with roaches. I still have the security deposit which does not cover the 2 months of rent nor the nearly 6,000.00 in labor, and materials to get the place back in a livable condition.

    • Brenda

      Check with a attorney about the statue for the judgement.Was it for money and possession or just possession. Has the judgement been served? Do you know where they currently live or where they are employed at?
      Personal Opinion Its going to be easier to get the damages than the back rent. That can cross a line between civil/criminal.Little more leverage there. You may still get the back rent but don’t expect it and save your anger for the damages. This cuts into your profit even more. It costs you double and means its empty longer. Cascade effect. Loss of rent is frustrating and painful but isn’t half as bad as damages.

      • Angela

        Thanks!

        • Brenda

          Your welcome. NeXT time don’t wait so long.If your tenant hasn’t paid or called you by the end of the grace period they are in violation of lease. Pay them a welfare/property check. If you can’t do, it have someone do it.Carry a camera[you may or may not need it].
          Don’t touch or go through tenants items, just do a quick check on your property, see if its still intact and in good shape. This will also tell you if they are moving or still there. Where you need to go to resolve the issue. Note For a good tenant this is more a welfare check. Not so good renters its more protecting your own interest. You need standard of proof for a court case[if it gets that far] as well as your piece of mind.

  • Bryan Ballard

    Similar things just happened to me like Angela. Tenant moved out owing around $3,000 and left the place in ruins. Even took the front porch apart… He stole the refrigerator too so I should file a claim w’ with police? I don’t know where he is now and he changes his cell # every month… He’d settle for paying me money instead of a felony on his record. The only bad thing about this is I think I could only get him to pay for the fridge and stuff that he deliberately broke so that is a lot less unless I fabricate stuff… Sorry this was so long. Does anyone have any advice for me?

    • Brenda

      Do not fabricate anything. This is the wrong tactic to use. Unless you want a fraud charge on yourself. Yes you have a criminal case if he stole the fridge. If. however. you think you can get him to pay for the fridge and the stuff he broke. you might want to try that first. You could still file an incident report if he didn’t.Don’t wait to long to do so either. If you can get him to pay for fridge and damages its a start. Does he have any skills that would be valuable to you? If so you could try working off the back rent. IF not then either you could try a repayment plan or go to court.

  • Lesley Garee

    I think it’s wrong for the us postal service to give out a persons new address. That is private information. And while I’m sure there are some landlords who are rightfully due something, there are a lot of landlords who are ass holes too. Changing your address should be private!!! I’m starting to think the end of the us postal service might be a good thing.

    • Brenda

      The end on the postal system is on the horizon. Bulk mail is about to bankrupt them. Its totally unnecessary and contributes to the bloat and overwork of all postal workers. Vandalism and theft. Manipulation of the mails by aholes and other assorted stalkers have convinced me we need a better way.PS Don’t bother getting a private address at one of the private postal centers. They are convenient and secure as far as theft of physical mail is concerned. However theft or diversion of mail in the system is still handled by the post office.Exception you are starting a business and are your own registered agent .Use this until you find a registered agent you trust. In this case its a god send.

    • Brenda

      There is a difference in dodging bills rightfully owed versus being hounded through the mail.Once apun a time, in a world far away and long ago, it was more likely, that someone looking for you, had an honorable intent ,even it the recipient didn’t like it.Those days are long gone, the kooks have taken over[ and those who want their privacy and freedom from these same kooks] are hymed in by the need of the government and other agencies to verify your address.Why because if they know it wont be long before the kooks do.Same cycle different year.I share your pain as I have gone through
      this for several years or more.

  • Kelli

    So in reading between the lines, am I allowed to call a former tenant’s workplace and ask if they can speak, or leave them a message?

    This tenant’s roommate suddenly passed away so we let him break the lease without penalty, then he left the place trashed and full of personal belongings. He refuses to answer the phone or return my calls. We sent a certified letter to the address of our rental hoping it would be forwarded, but it came back to us as unable to forward.

    Thank you for any insight you may have.

    • Brenda

      Are you sure his roommate is actually dead? Sorry to ask but I know someone who had that issue with a tenant a couple years ago.Though the tenant didn’t trash the place.It was like pulling hens teeth to get the police dept to confirm the death and still didn’t want to tell the landlord what the roommate died from.Finally the police dept admitted that it wouldn’t affect the landlords ability to rerent the place.

  • Melanie

    We got a final judgement of eviction (after 5 months of a legal battle costing thousands) but were blocked from executing the writ of possession by the county due to Covid 19. The property is fenced and gated and locks were placed on the gates so we could not enter. It was a residence & office. We went by during business hours but he kept it locked and only talked through the door denying us entry due to Covid. He is now gone after 3 more months of free rent (30K total) and left over $50K in damages. He tore huge holes in exterior concrete walls (like you can drive a truck through) and left two roll-offs full of garbage. Every door has holes, trim was eaten by a dog, etc. I’m out of money for a lawyer- what should be my next step?

  • Mia

    My renters didnt pay rent for Jan and Feb and then Covid happened and they completely stopped paying rent since they knew they couldnt get evicted. So they havent paid rent for going on 7 months and I found out today that they have moved out about 3 weeks ago. Is it legal for me to go into the house and change the locks? I could see through the window that there is a little bit of stuff left, but according to the neighbors, they said they were moving and there was a moving truck there.

    Thank you

  • Michelle

    Our tenant refuses to provide forwarding address for his Disposition of Deposit and wants it emailed. How likely am I to get his forwarding address from USPS if I send to the address he was renting and noting on mail ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED? Has this been a successful resource for others?

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