When can I go after my tenant?

I recently had one of my tenants break his lease. Lease expires the end of May. He paid for half of Jan. and left (and took the garage door opener) >:(

I am trying to get a new tenant in the property with little success (people don’t like moving in the cold Iowa winter).

Do I need to go through the eviction process? He’s gone I don’t need to get him out but do I need to follow the right steps?

Can I file in small claims now for money he will owe me?

Should I wait till I find a new tenant, say in April, and file for money owed in Mar. Feb and half of Jan.?

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.


I suggest you look a your rental contract. Most contracts state that the home is consider vacated if they are gone longer than a week, and the tenant is supposed to notify you of their being gone for an extended period. No payment and no stuff make me move towards finding a new tenant asap.
Under normal eviction situations, technically you can start the eviction process the day after they miss their payment. Iowa has a certain process you need to follow which you can locate on the net…do a google search.
If I remember correctly, Iowa is very favorable towards landlords in its laws and short eviction process.
You can try to get your money, but it may not be worth the hassles. Even if you go to court and he doesn’t show, then you win. However, there is no guarantee you will get your money.
I would just move on. Get a new renter and make the lease longer so that when the lease ends it happens in the warmer months.

I set the terms with my renters clearly. Pay on or before the 1st, the 2nd includes a penalty, and the 3rd day I begin the eviction process. You can always stop the eviction process if you get paid a few days later, but it sends a clear message that a renters first priority is there housing payment.
You don’t have to be mean about it all. I just tell them that I am preparing them for when they own a home, and the lesson is that their first priority always is their house payment.
Your educating them will go a long way for them and you.

Good luck.