Can I Be Sued for a Promissory Note of Unpaid Rent?

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There are many reasons for someone requesting a promissory note for rent. Landlords don't require them because the lease is adequate proof you owe rent. However, if you share an apartment leased by your roommate and in his name, he might ask you to sign a promissory note for rent. A promissory note is valid proof that you agree you have a financial responsibility to the individual and agree to pay in a timely fashion.

Initial Process

The beneficiary of the funds from the note must inform you the note is matured and due. He has to do this in writing so there's proof of his actions. He must deliver it by hand or through the registered mail to insure your receipt. At that point, you can either pay the amount you owe or discuss the reason you feel you don't owe the funds. In some cases, you might agree that you owe money but require more time to pay and seek other arrangements.

Read the Promissory Note Thoroughly

You should have a copy of the note in your records. If you don't have a copy, request one from the note holder. Check to see if the amount requested in the initial collection letter is correct and due. If it is, you have an obligation to pay.

Next Step

You might receive a follow-up letter demanding payment, if the note holder wants to give you a second chance. He might turn the collection duties over to an attorney if the amount is large. However, at this point, in most states if the amount is small, he can take court action and file a suit. If he does, you'll receive papers notifying you when to appear in court.

Appear in Court or Lose

You'll lose by default if you fail to appear in court. Once this occurs, depending on the state, the note holder can request proceedings supplemental to the judgment. This might require you to go to court and list all assets and income you have so the court can garnish your wages or seize your assets. If you fail to appear, the court may issue a body attachment. In this case, there's a warrant for your arrest.

What to Do

If you have an outstanding promissory note, contact the note holder and make new arrangements to pay. If you disagree you owe the funds, gather your proof and go to court. The note holder must prove you owe money, so come prepared with any pertinent information such as canceled checks, receipts of payment, or proof you never signed the note or owed the rent. Check your state law to make certain the statutes of limitation on the note has not expired. This makes the debt uncollectible as long as you appear and state your case.

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