Can I sue the property management company I hired for not going after tenants for damages?
Question Details: I hired a property management company PMC to handle my rental. When the first and only tenants moved out after 2 years, the property was trashed. There were drawings on all walls, holes in doors and walls, damaged trim through out entire house, wires cut on garage door opener, absolutely filthy bathrooms and kitchen, all window screens missing, towel bars rings missing, etc. The tenants also had overdue balances on utilities and didn't pay last months rent. PMC billed the tenant for $8000. The tenant disputed and told PMC they were willing to pay $1300. Now the PMC will not reply to any of my emails and have closed my account, with a check to me with only the remainder of the security deposit $1000, doesn't even cover the last months rent. I have emailed everyone in their office, asking what is going as, as they had told me before that it is their job to take the tenants to court if they don't pay the bill. No one will reply to me, no one will tell me what's going on. Can I sue them for gross negligence in not pursuing payment from tenants and refusing to give me documentation that would even allow me to sue the tenants, which they were supposed to do anyways? I have written documentation of both PMC and tenant acknowledging damage to my property and even willing to pay some, and then silence from PMC.
You can in theory sue PMS for breach of contract (violating their contractual, or agreed upon, obligations to you, whether such obligations were written, oral, or a mix) but be advised it is very doubtful you will get anything like the $7,000 ($8,000 less the $1,000 you received) back. The problem is, you can only recover money you can prove that you would have gotten if they had done their job, but you can't prove you would have gotten a judgment for $8,000--it's likely the court would have disallowed or discounted some claims and given you less--and then it's not guaranteed you'd actually collect whatever judgment was obtained--the tenant might be insolvent, might be impossible to locate, might have moved to a different state or country, complicating collections, might file bankrutpcy, etc. Since you can't prove you'd get the whole amount, a court would likely only give you what it, in its experience and judgment, believes you would most likely have recovered. In my experience (9 years landlord-tenant law in NJ), that is probably $2,000 - $4,000.