It can be frustrating to deal with tenants who do not pay their rent on time. Not only do they ruin your rental property’s cash flow, but they also put you in the costly situation of paying for everything out-of-pocket until they can finally pay up. If you’re in that situation now, here’s what you can do to deal with non-paying tenants:
#1 Check What the Lease Says
Double-check your records to be sure the renter is really late on their rent. Chances are, you merely made a mistake and counted the days wrong. It’s always a good idea to review the original lease agreement where everything is outlined.
Some states do not mandate a grace period for paying rent, but in general, you can include a clause in your lease agreement granting tenants a 3- or 5-day “extension” from the due date. However, if you’ve already double-checked and discovered that the renter has gone beyond the grace period, you will be allowed by the lease’s terms as well as state and local legislation to collect a late fee.
#2 Inform Your Tenant of the Late Rent
The renter should be served with a late rent notice. This is a written document that tells your tenant their rent is past its due date. The late rent notice should ideally include the rent owed, as well as late fees, and a warning regarding possible legal action in case the tenant doesn’t pay the rent. If a property management firm is handling your finances, they can the notice to the tenant, email it to them, or tape it to the front door.
By doing so, you’ll also be able to retain a copy of the notice, which can aid you in court. If your tenant claims that they were wrongfully evicted, you’ll be able to establish that there truly was a pattern of missed payments.
#3 Talk to Your Tenant
It can be frustrating to deal with tenants who don’t pay their rent on time, but remember to always be as calm as possible. Property owners who act on emotion are prone to harassing their tenants, which can be the cause of legal trouble. A heat-of-the-moment response could result in a crime, so be sure to respect your renters, but don’t be reluctant to point out the late rent payment, either.
Arrange a face-to-face meeting with the tenant to talk about why they haven’t been able to pay up on time. You may find that the best solution would be to offer them a one-time repayment plan, particularly if they’ve found themselves in sudden unemployment. Alternatively, you can make it your property management company’s call to decide whether or not to accept your tenant’s reason for their non-payment of rent.
If there’s no valid reason why they haven’t been able to pay their rent on time, it may be an opportunity to talk about late fees. That way, you can show your tenants that you’re serious about rent payments and that they can’t “bully” you into leniency.
#4 Serve the Tenant a Notice to Pay or Quit
By law, you are required to serve your tenant a notice to pay or quit in the event they still haven’t been able to pay their rent, as this serves as the “first step” of the eviction process. Compared to the late rent notice, this document is more formal.
This notice should explicitly state your intention to evict, the total rent owed (plus late rent fees), and when you expect the tenant to pay up. If you’ve partnered with a South Florida property management company, they can prepare this for you.
You can post the notice on your rental property’s door, or serve it to your tenant in person. To be safe, it would be a good idea to mail it to your tenant, too.
#5 File for Eviction
If your renter still refuses to pay, partner with a property management company with an in-house team of lawyers. You’ll need their assistance to file a complaint in court due to the non-payment of rent. Do note that you can do this only once the due date in your notice to pay or quit has passed.
Prepare your documents such as your notice of late rent payment, maintenance reports (to show the court that you haven’t abandoned your responsibilities), and more. Again, a property management company can help you compile these and prepare for court.
A Word on Partial Payments
Accepting partial payment in place of full rental payment at any point in time can cause complications in the eviction process. Remember, you can evict a tenant once they haven’t been able to pay their rent – if they’ve paid even a part of it, that means that they have been able to pay it.
So, if your renter puts down a partial payment days after you’ve served the late rent notice, the requirements to serve a notice to pay or quit are not satisfied. They’ve already paid part of the balance.
How to Avoid Late Rent Payments
By far, one of the best ways to avoid late rent payments is to ensure your tenants are responsible people. You can do this by screening tenants strictly. Be sure they have always been able to pay their rent on time with their previous landlord, and that they have stable employment.
In addition, adopt innovations such as tenant portals to allow your tenants to pay their rent over the internet. Alternatively, you could partner with a property management company that has its own tried-and-tested system for rent collections.
As you can see, you shouldn’t go straight into eviction if your tenant is overdue on their rent. Instead of going through the costly and time-consuming process of eviction, you can try to understand why their rent isn’t on time. However, if all else fails, that’s when you should evict your tenant.