A landlord has the right to receive rent from a tenant under the terms of the rental agreement. When the tenant fails to meet his rent obligations, the landlord can, but is not required to, sue the tenant in court to try to recover the money. If you've failed to pay any of your rent, your landlord can sue you even if you've already moved out of your apartment. Landlord tenant and civil procedure laws differ among states, so talk with an attorney for legal advice about what a landlord can do when trying to collect unpaid back rent after you've vacated a rental property.
Whenever you enter into a rental agreement, you are expected to provide rent on a regular basis, typically monthly. If you fail to pay on time, the landlord can not only demand that you pay all the rent due, but he can sue you to compel you to do so. The landlord can do this regardless of the kind of lease you have or whether your rental agreement is written or verbal.
When a landlord wants to collect back rent, she can try to persuade the tenant to pay or sue the tenant in court. If she sues you, she must file the lawsuit and notify you about it. A tenant has an opportunity to fight the lawsuit at a hearing and can present evidence on his own behalf. If the landlord wins the case, the court will issue a judgment, which is a legal decree that states that the landlord is the winner of the case and the tenant owes her a specific amount of money.
If you agreed to pay rent and subsequently failed to do so, your landlord can sue you for this unpaid rent at any time, even after you have moved out. However, the landlord has a limited amount of time in which to file a lawsuit. The amount of time the landlord has to commence a legal proceeding depends on the state in which you lived before moving out. For example, in Oregon, a landlord has one year to sue a tenant for any action arising out of a rental agreement, according to Oregon Revised Statutes section 12.125. This means that a landlord has one year from the date upon which the rent was originally due to sue the tenant for back rent.
A landlord can sue a tenant for back rent, but the case doesn't always have to end up in court. Negotiating a settlement with the landlord to make up for the unpaid rent is always an option, as is simply paying the undue rent. Regardless of the settlement, it's always best to get a rental agreement in writing and to make rent payments with a check or similar instrument so there is evidence of the payment made.