6 Steps For Collecting Late Rent Before Eviction
With any luck, your tenant(s) have promptly made payments, but in the event that their rent isn’t in on time, it falls to you as the landlord to get the money owed. It’s likely a task you’d rather not have to do, nor is it pleasant work, but by following standard practices and the measures you’ve (hopefully) put in place in your lease, you can tackle the issue with some of the steps below.
Be aware of any federal, state, or local proclamations or restrictions.
From time to time, usually in extreme cases, there may be either national or other issues that impact rental obligations and evictions. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a federal moratorium on evictions plus many states and cities had their own prohibitions on eviction actions.
Check the grace period.
Before you take any of the steps listed below, be aware of any legal grace period laws that might exist in your state. Not every state has them, but in those that do, renters are afforded a period of a few days beyond the due date to deliver the payment, on the grounds that ACH transfers or checks can take a few days to clear.
Independent of state laws, you may have written in a grace period to the lease to avoid having to deal with similar issues — after all, it’s better to wait a couple days for payment rather than dealing with checks that will bounce. Given that many renters may be operating from paycheck-to-paycheck, those paid on the last day of the month may have trouble turning around a rent payment in one day. So before sending any other communication on late rent, make sure you're abiding by the lease as well.
Remind tenants of rent due.
Many landlords take the step of dropping an automated email or text to tenants just ahead of the rent due-date as a friendly, subtle reminder of their upcoming obligation. Even when the due date passes, it might be useful to send a note to your tenant about the late rent, in the hopes that the situation can be resolved quickly and amicably. Perhaps they’ve simply lost track of the days or date, or are out of town and returning in a day or two to drop off payment. As with many things involved with being a landlord, it’s best to try and resolve situations with a simple conversation where possible.
Send late rent notice.
Should the grace period pass and informal communications fail, landlords can send a late rent notice to a delinquent tenant. This notice informs the tenant(s) of the past-due nature of their rent, as well as any late fees added and the timeframe in which they have to pay the full amount before you take additional steps that may lead to their eventual eviction. It’s at your discretion as the landlord to choose to waive late fees in the event of extenuating circumstances, but be aware that too much leniency may leave you open to more frequent late payments.
Call or text, but don’t threaten.
Checking in on the status of a late rent payment is within the bounds of what a landlord is allowed to do, but tread carefully; too many phone calls or texts may be considered harassment, landing you in potential legal jeopardy. If you’ve already communicated via phone or text prior to sending a late rent notice, it would be wise to limit further follow-on communications, instead let the prescribed process play out as you seek payment.
Pay or quit notice.
Should all the above fail, you may be pressed into sending a ‘pay or quit’ notice to a tenant that has not responded to any of your other attempts to collect. The notice indicates the amount due as well as the timeframe in which payment must be made lest you begin the formal eviction process. Given that pay or quit notice is the first part of the legal eviction process, there may be rules in your state about the manner in which the notice has to be served to the tenant, so first consult with an attorney as to how to proceed.
As the ‘pay or quit’ name suggests, the tenant has the prescribed number of days to pay the rent or leave the premises, and failure to do either will likely prompt eviction proceedings. It should be noted that should you choose to accept partial payment (which must be documented), you cannot then continue on with the eviction process without serving a new notice at a later date. Again, seek the advice of an attorney if you find yourself in this situation.
Handling late rent payments can be a hassle without the knowhow of how to collect without crossing the line. As a LegalShield member, you can work with a provider attorney to both identify any hurdles and create collection letters to try and recoup payment. Sign up today to get started!
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