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What to do when small claims court won't work?

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Latest post Fri, Jan 6 2017 5:26 PM by Drew. 13 replies.
  • Wed, Jan 4 2017 10:51 AM

    • JimmyDee7
      Consumer
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    • CT
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    What to do when small claims court won't work?

    Had a tenant completely ruin an apartment.  Plus, they left without giving 90 days (actually, they gave 4 days) so technically they owe me 2 more months rent.

     

    I tried small claims court, but the tenant has moved to a new state and so is beyond jurisdiction according to the response I got after filing the claim.

     

    What now? Do I have any recourse?  It literally cost me about $4K in repairs, plus the 2 months rent is another $1,600.

  • Wed, Jan 4 2017 11:04 AM In reply to

    • DOCAR
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    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    Hire an attorney and proceed in the superior court, they could have jurisdiction of an out of state defendant or you can go to the state where the tenant now lives and sue in their small claims court.

  • Wed, Jan 4 2017 3:16 PM In reply to

    • Drew
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    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    You need to assess economic reality as well...an expensive quest to nail down a "skip" in another state is a very hollow victory if they are effectively " collection proof " with an empty pot or now in a state that makes collection darn hard.....



  • Wed, Jan 4 2017 4:53 PM In reply to

    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    JimmyDee7:
    but the tenant has moved to a new state and so is beyond jurisdiction according to the response I got after filing the claim.

    The response you got from whom?

     

    JimmyDee7:
    What now? Do I have any recourse?

    Of course you do.  Even if it's correct that the small claims court lacks jurisdiction because the tenant no longer lives in your state (about which I'm skeptical), there are obviously courts in your state other than small claims court, or you could sue in the tenant's new state.  Suing in the tenant's new state is probably the smart thing to do since, even if you got a judgment in your state, you'd have to domesticate the judgment in the new state unless the tenant still works or has assets in your state.

  • Thu, Jan 5 2017 3:37 PM In reply to

    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    JimmyDee7:
    I tried small claims court, but the tenant has moved to a new state and so is beyond jurisdiction according to the response I got after filing the claim.

    That just seems so wrong to me, so I googled "small claims court in CT," and on the Connecticut Judicial Branch website it says, both on the FAQ page and in their "How Small Claims Court Works" guide, that you can sue an out-of-state resident only if they have property in CT, and you have to include a statement that the defendant does own property in CT in your filing paperwork if you don't want them to reject your case.

    Nowhere do they explain why this is the case, nor whether it says so in the Connecticut General Statutes or any other written laws.  But, bottom line, it looks like you're probably stuck either suing your ex-tenant in regular court (Superior Court) or in the small claims court where he/she/they now live.  How far away is that?

  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 6:46 AM In reply to

    • JimmyDee7
      Consumer
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    • CT
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    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    The tenant has moved to PA.

    @ca19lawyer2 - The response I got from the small claims court in my area of CT.  They dismissed the case, and that was one of the reasons.

  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 10:12 AM In reply to

    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    It is incredibly common for small claims court rules to limit suits against non-residents.  For example, in my state, a non-resident may be sued in small claims court only if the suit relates to property owned by the defendant in the state or the case involves a motor vehicle accident that occurred in the state.  Similarly, your state allows small claims suits against a non-resident only if service may be effected in the state or the cause of action arise in the state.  The reason for this is that suits against non-residents tend to involve complications, including jurisdictional issues, and the whole point of small claims court is to achieve a quick, inexpensive resolution of the matter (of course, in states where the parties may have lawyers, that purpose is pretty well defeated, but that's the reason nonetheless).

  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 10:18 AM In reply to

    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    Let me emphasize something in my prior response.

    Let's say you do sue in some court in your state and win.  What good will that do you?  You'll have a judgment, but that's just a piece of paper, and you can't deposit a judgment in your bank account.

    If the defendant has assets or income in your state, then you could try to enforce your judgment against that income and assets.  However, if he has no income or assets in your state, you'll need to domesticate the judgment in his new state (or any other state in which he has income or assets).  That's typically a relatively simple process, but in most cases, it's better/simpler to sue in the new state fro the get go.  You probably can get the necessary forms on the internet and file them by mail and only have to travel for the trial.  Although your travel expenses wouldn't be recoverable, depending on where in CT you are and where in PA he is, it may require only a relatively short drive.

  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 10:30 AM In reply to

    • Drew
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    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    The steps in PA can be a royal pain...even if you prevail:

    1. IT is incredibly easy for loser in SC to appeal the matter and require that you do a  complete do over " de novo" in court of common pleas  

    2. PA does not allow for wage attachments 

     

     



  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 12:00 PM In reply to

    Disagree [)*(] Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    Drew:
    PA does not allow for wage attachments

    Not correct.  While PA law does not allow wage garnishment for most civil money judgments, it does allow it for things like taxes, spousal/child support payments, and student loans.  It ALSO allows wage garnishment for unpaid rent on a residential lease.  While the linked article does not cite any actual statute, I found numerous other articles that said the same thing.

  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 12:16 PM In reply to

    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    ca19lawyer2:
    That's typically a relatively simple process, but in most cases, it's better/simpler to sue in the new state fro the get go.

    What if the new state were Hawaii or Alaska?

    I'm no expert, but it's my impression that getting a judgment domesticated does not normally require an in-person appearance the way winning a judgment in the first place does.  As long as I am right about that, it's obvious to me that the easiest and usually least expensive approach is to sue in the nearest location the law allows, and then to domesticate your judgment in the state where the defendant has wages and/or assets to collect from, if you feel it's worthwhile.  You can also just get your judgment and then wait the defendant out, if it seems likely he or she may need to repair his or her credit at some point in the future, and even put it on your calendar to renew the judgment whenever it is about to expire.

    I was not aware that the rules for jurisdiction and venue were different for small claims court than for other courts, and in fact am having a great deal of trouble getting any results in an internet search, to see whether that IS common to many other states or unique to CT.

  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 2:23 PM In reply to

    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    karen2222:

    ca19lawyer2:
    That's typically a relatively simple process, but in most cases, it's better/simpler to sue in the new state fro the get go.

    What if the new state were Hawaii or Alaska?

    That would be an incredibly ATYPICAL situation (hence my use of the word "typically") since Hawaii and Alaska comprise only 4% of the states in the U.S. and are home to only about 6/10ths of 1% of the U.S. population.  And, of course, the person who is the subject of the thread is not in either of those states.

     

    karen2222:
    I'm no expert, but it's my impression that getting a judgment domesticated does not normally require an in-person appearance the way winning a judgment in the first place does.

    Your impression is consistent with my experience domesticating dozens, if not hundreds, of sister-state judgments (and, in one case a foreign country money judgment).  However, I only say that because you used the word "normally" (much as I used the word "typically").

     

    karen2222:
    As long as I am right about that, it's obvious to me that the easiest and usually least expensive approach is to sue in the nearest location the law allows, and then to domesticate your judgment in the state where the defendant has wages and/or assets to collect from, if you feel it's worthwhile.

    I assume it's "obvious" to you because you are not familiar with some of the difficulties that can arise with the process of domesticating a judgment, including the fact that debtor can challenge the domestication based on an allegation that the original state lacked personal jurisdiction.  I did not suggest that suing in the defendant's current state of residence is ALWAYS a better option, but the burden of traveling to that state is hardly the only factor to consider.

     

    karen2222:
    You can also just get your judgment and then wait the defendant out, if it seems likely he or she may need to repair his or her credit at some point in the future, and even put it on your calendar to renew the judgment whenever it is about to expire.

    That's about as effective as frying an egg by leaving it outside and waiting for the temperature to rise.

     

    karen2222:
    I was not aware that the rules for jurisdiction and venue were different for small claims court than for other courts, and in fact am having a great deal of trouble getting any results in an internet search, to see whether that IS common to many other states or unique to CT.

    For starters, here are links to the relevant California and Washington statutes, and I specifically know NY has something similar (although I don't have a link handy).

  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 5:11 PM In reply to

    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    Yes, Hawaii and Alaska are not where most people move to, but they are only the MOST inconvenient of the 50 states.

    ca19lawyer2:

    karen2222:
    You can also just get your judgment and then wait the defendant out, if it seems likely he or she may need to repair his or her credit at some point in the future, and even put it on your calendar to renew the judgment whenever it is about to expire.

    That's about as effective as frying an egg by leaving it outside and waiting for the temperature to rise.

    Actually, people on this forum have had that experience, I believe on both sides (debtor wanting to settle an old debt so he can qualify for a mortgage, and having trouble finding the creditor, and on the creditor side).

    If the defendant is currently "judgment-proof" (unable to pay), waiting for his circumstances to improve can be the only practical approach.

    ca19lawyer2:
    or starters, here are links to the relevant California and Washington statutes, and I specifically know NY has something similar (although I don't have a link handy).

    Thanks for the links.  I did a little reading, and it seems each state is unique.  It appears that you can sue an out-of-state defendant in Connecticut small claims court only if you attest that the defendant owns property in Connecticut.  California requires process to be served in California (with two exceptions that don't apply to OP's situation).  RCW 3.66.040(6) seems to give a lot of latitude, saying "An action against a nonresident of this state, including an action arising under the provisions of chapter 19.190 RCW, may be brought in any district where service of process may be had, or in which the cause of action or some part thereof arose, or in which the plaintiff or one of them resides."

  • Fri, Jan 6 2017 5:26 PM In reply to

    • Drew
      Consumer
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    • Joined on Thu, Mar 30 2000
    • PA
    • Posts 51,431

    Re: What to do when small claims court won't work?

    Ca19lawyer2 is quite correct that PA allows,  after a century of so of not allowing, wage attachments for damages or rents coming out of a residential lease . ( Act 215) ..but it's not exactly popular in many circles ..and there are special local as well as PA Supreme Court rules necessary to be followed to get to an actual wage attachments , even special steps as to service of notice .....and My guess is a claim by a LL from a foreign jurisdiction about a lease in a foreign jurisdiction is going to go under a legal microscope for the LL .   OP you best plan on reciewing your facts and issues with a PA attorney skilled at representing LL s in the county in which the defendants now reside 

    .and some keen attention to what your lease defines as rent or damages . ...if your lease doesn't clearly define collection costs as rent you may be out of luck as to your collection costs .   Been there in PA. 



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