The Moneyist: My friend of 30 years owes me $20K after living in my apartment rent-free. She texted to say she misses our friendship. What should I do now?

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Dear Quentin,

One of my oldest friends of 30 years rented an apartment from me for 8 years. She stopped paying rent during the last year when she started her own business. She kept saying she would pay me back, but by the time she moved out 3 years ago, she owed me more $20,000 in back rent and stopped taking my calls when I tried to collect it.

Out of the blue she texted me on my birthday last week, and said she missed me and would like to be friends again. However, her texts mentioned nothing about paying me back. I have already made peace with the lost money, and lost friendship, but I’ll bring up the back rent if we do speak again, which will probably be the end of that.

So what should I do? What should I say?

Bad Blood

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Bad Blood,

“…and I miss my $20,000.”

If your friendship is that important to your friend, she should have led with her amends. The price of that is $20,000. The most interesting, if not surprising, thing about her text message is that it focused on how she feels and her needs. It does not address the harm she has done to your friendship — possibly irrevocably.

U.S. states have a dollar limit on small-claims court cases. Unless you live in Delaware, Texas or Tennessee, it seems that your dispute with this friend exceeds that amount in other states. But that also speaks to the amount of money she pocketed. It’s a lot of money, and it should not be brushed off so lightly. Think again about taking legal action.

Enough texting. Meet her face to face. Tell her that you had to pay the mortgage while she lived there rent-free, and remind her that she is not the only person with financial responsibilities and that she abdicated her duty to you as a tenant and as a friend to pursue her needs. She used your friendship as leverage to scam free rent.

She cannot repair the friendship until she has repaid the debt.

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