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My tenant abandoned my apt 7 months early and left the place in a mess

My tenant signed a 1 year lease from 11-10-08 to 11-10-09. on 5-6-09, she emailed me that she needs to move in a week and would like to discuss breaking the lease i spoke with her that evening and notified that she was already 2 months behind in rent and i would let her break the lease once i do a walk through to verify the apts condition and she is responsible for re-renting the place. she agreed and we scheduled to meet 2 x's and she canceled both. then she called and left me a vm to say she left her keys with the deli owner and for me to use the security deposit as rent. i went to go see the apt this weekend and it's in horrible condition. i would have to clean, repaint and re-carpet the place to re-rent it. She now owes me 3 months rent and the deposit won't even cover the damages she had done to the unit and the money i had paid the agent to lease the place. What do i do next? is my agent liable at all since i had paid him to find me the tenant? What do i do next?

The unfortunate reality of being a landlord is that it's not often cost effective to take ex-tenants to court and then go through the legal motions to collect a judgment. I would recommend you speak with an attorney, preferably one who won't charge just to hear your story.   Best of luck!
I would take her to small claims court if the damage is under $5,000.  I would schedule contractors to come give you some proposals on the damage, not to mention take tons of pictures to document the damage before anything is done.  Through my County it's only $29 to file a claim, and then a smaller fee to have the papers served.  You can also have the papers served through certified mail, keep your receipts for that as well.  Normally, every County has a Small Claims court link/info/website.  I won a case at Small Claims against the people I purchased my home from.  I made sure the hot tub was inspected during my home inspection (when it worked).  When I moved in it didn't work due to a blown engine, and spent $400 to repair it.  The judge awarded us the money, and had the previous owner reimburse us for filing fees and postage to serve them.
The easiest and lease expensive thing you can do is put the debt on her credit report and leave it there for the full seven years allowed by law or until she pays you.  I have a blog on this issue at: or email me at  Good luck, Bill
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