No landlord wants to deal with a tenant who has fallen into arrears. Unfortunately, the odds of getting that money back get lower the longer they put off taking action. Instead of just calling it a loss and moving on, read on to find a step-by-step guide to how to use debtor tracing to find tenants who owe back rent but have vacated the premises without paying.
Step One: Set Realistic Expectations
Most landlords assume that they should be able to track down previous tenants who’ve skipped out on rent without much trouble. The problem is, these debtors absolutely do not want to be found. They don’t go out and rent new flats in their own names, and some will even go so far as to change their phone numbers to avoid unwanted debt collection calls. If calling the previous tenant’s cell phone, personal references, or place of employment doesn’t yield any leads, don’t expect to get anywhere alone.
Step Two: Hire an Expert
Instead of wasting countless hours trying to track down tenants who owe back rent to no avail, landlords should hire an expert. There are plenty of tracing services out there that have access to advanced tools, technologies, and networks that make it easier to track down tenants who don’t want to be found. Those who are on the fence about paying the fees should keep in mind that it’s often the only way to get that unpaid rent back, so the return on investment can be huge.
Step Three: Choose a Service Plan
The more work it takes to track down a debtor, the more landlords should expect to pay. A simple online search may be cheaper than an in-depth, in-person trace, but it won’t always yield results. If it’s clear that the tenant has gone to great lengths to make him- or herself scarce, the best bet is always to enlist a tracing company capable of performing full private investigations and providing detailed reports.
Step Four: Wait a Week or Two
It takes some time to track down old tenants. Some companies can find the information in just a day or two, but it will cost landlords more to expedite the process. Those who want to get maximum bang for their buck in terms of fees should expect to wait between five and ten days for results.
Step Five: Check the Report
Once the investigators have traced the person to his or her current address, they’ll compose and file a complete report. If the landlord requests photos or video evidence, it will all be included. Keep in mind that the report will only be provided upon full payment of the investigator’s fees. Once the report is in the landlord’s hand, it should be much easier to take the previous tenant to court, forcing him or her to pay what’s owed.
The Bottom Line
Recovering back rent from tenants who abandon a property can be incredibly difficult. In most cases, it requires taking the tenant to court, and that requires knowing where he or she is to serve a court order. Landlords can trust professional tracing companies to track down previous tenants who owe back rent, making the whole process easier.