Landlords are as much responsible for the wellbeing of their property as they are for the diligence of their tenants. With that in mind, it’s up to a landlord to encourage timely rent payment, even when a renter doesn’t pay. With that being said, contending with a situation where a renter won’t pay promptly can be difficult. Luckily, concrete steps can make this process less dramatic for both you and your tenants.
Your Reaction When a Renter Won’t Pay
Compassion should be an active part of a good landlord’s toolkit. While tenants who fail to pay their rent on time can be frustrating to contend with, there’s often a reason why a renter won’t pay on time. With that in mind, the steps you need to take to secure payment demand collaboration and communication.
The best way to respond when a renter won’t pay or delays a rent payment is to follow the appropriate sequence of steps:
Send Out Reminders
If you have a grace period integrated into your lease agreement, make sure to let your renters take advantage of it. You can send out rent reminders during this grace period, encouraging all parties who may have missed the original payment date to settle their expenses.
It’s easiest to send these reminders as templated emails, especially if you’re contending with multiple late tenants at one time.
When drafting a late rent email, remember to be compassionate. Don’t let passive-aggressive language slip into your reminder.
Instead, remind tenants of any late fees they may face and help them reconnect with the rent payment platform your complex uses. If you don’t use an online platform to collect your rent, remind tenants of your office hours and encourage them to drop by.
Assign Late Fees
If your reminder emails don’t generate a response, then it’s time to consider late fees. Before assigning late fees, make sure to revisit your tenant’s rent agreement. You should have originally outlined potential fees in that agreement.
If you haven’t, you may not have the legal standing you need to reprimand tenants for their late payment.
So long as you have outlined this potential consequence, though, you can move forward with your late fee. Send another email out to the appropriate parties letting them know that a late rent fee has been applied to their balance, whether that balance is online or through your office.
Invite tenants to direct any questions they may have about their late fees to you or your team for ease of communication.
If a tenant goes multiple months without paying their rent, then it’s time to reach out and schedule a one-on-one consultation. Most tenants do not choose to forgo rent payments out of a malicious sense of non-compliance.
Instead, lost jobs, grief, and other circumstances may make it more difficult for a normally diligent tenant to keep up with the world’s demands.
During a consultation with a tenant, make sure to discuss what’s delayed their payments and how you can help them. The two of you can set up a pay-back plan with interest, as appropriate, or even transition the tenant onto a month-to-month lease.
The Question of Eviction
While compassion is a landlord’s best friend, there may come the point where it is no longer an effective tool. If you’ve reached out to a non-responsive tenant and received no answer to your request for a consultation, then it may be time to consider the eviction process.
This process can be costly for the tenant and landlord alike. Even so, tenants who cannot pay their rent and refuse to negotiate with landlords can find themselves losing their right to remain on your property.
You can sit down with a property attorney in your area to discuss the complexities of the eviction process. Together you can determine whether eviction is the appropriate course of action for this particular tenant.
A property attorney can help you draw up the paperwork you need to evict your tenant, including the eviction warning that you need to deliver. Should the eviction process carry forward after the delivery of said warning, you and your property attorney can discuss how you want to be represented in court.
Managing Tenant/Landlord Relationships
The relationship between a landlord and their tenants doesn’t have to be combative. Tenants who won’t pay their rent, after all, rarely do so simply to spite their landlords. Instead, personal events can make it more difficult for your tenants to keep up with worldly demands — and your compassion can make their lives easier.