Q: My husband and I were given a rental property by his parents about 3 years ago. We have rented to the same couple during that time. They signed a new contract in Jan. to pay rent for another year, but we were shocked to find out on March 1st (the day their March rent was due) that they had moved out. The next day my husband and I inspected the property (a single wide trailer on 2 acres of land) and were devastated to find about $2500-$3000 of damages to the property. We took pictures before beginning any repairs and are now
about 1/2 way through the mess.

Friends and relatives tell us we should just live and learn. My husband and I are thinking of going to court. The rental contract clearly states we should receive notice before a move or the tenants could be liable for rent until we are able to rent the property again. And also there is considerable damage to the property that we would like to hold the renters responsible for. However, the renter was self-employed (a painter), has no checking account that we are aware of (he always paid the rent in cash), and has moved to another county close by. He informed us that he and his wife moved in order to by a house from a friend who is owner financing (he has terrible credit and yet no one ever contacted us for a referral/reference.)

Your advice? If we do go to court, should we hire a lawyer? Also, once we have the property repaired, we are considering selling it. However, we know that banks do not like to give loans on mobile homes. Are we wise to think about owner financing? Where can we go to learn more about this?

A: If they signed a new lease for a year and then skipped out, they obviously owe you for the remaining balance plus any damages. You can sue them yourself in small claims court, or you can hire a real estate attorney to help you chase them. Once they buy their home, you may be able to attach a lien to the property (your attorney can help you with this).

As for financing your mobile home, if it’s permanently attached, more lenders are willing to look at this than you might imagine. Selling, however, may be your best bet. Investigate all of your options first and then add it up with a pencil and paper to see what will be your best deal.

Jan. 1, 2004.