There are several ways to collect money from a tenant who doesn't pay the required rent. Some are faster or easier than others.
Q: I rented the home I own to a tenant in May because I wanted to move in with my mom, who is 93 and needs help on a daily basis. The man I rented my home to never sent me a payment, so I evicted him and then sued him in small claims court for the money I am owed. The judge awarded me a $4,950 judgment, but now I can't find the tenant to collect. What can I do?
A: There are several ways to track down a deadbeat tenant, though some are more costly than others.
Start by visiting the area's local post office to see if you can get the tenant's new address. If you can, send him a copy of the court's decision by certified mail and demand the payment that the judge ordered.
If the post office can't help, or if the tenant simply ignores your correspondence, consider contacting all the personal references he listed on his original rental application to see if they know where he's living now. Be careful of what you say, though, because some deadbeats have successfully sued their previous landlords for slandering their character to their family, friends or employer.
You could also hire a collection agency to find him, though the firm may keep up to half (or more) of the money it recovers.
A less-expensive alternative might be to file an "abstract of judgment" against the former tenant at the local county recorder's office. An abstract is a brief summary of the lawsuit you have won and puts a lien on any real estate he might own in the area now or might try to purchase in the future. And, if he tries to get a loan or simply clean up his credit record later, the abstract might force him to settle his debt with you first.