A tenant can stop paying the rent for all manner of reasons. Oftentimes, landlords find themselves with this problem where the tenant falls behind on rent payments for months or simply refuses to pay.
So now what?
Naturally, for many landlords, it’s an eviction. However, taking this route can be a huge financial mistake. Besides, it’s pretty time-consuming and stressful.
Before considering drastic options, take a second to walk through smaller steps. Despite the odds, it’s entirely possible to have a resolution that is amicable and easier.
1. Determine Why the Tenant is Not Paying Rent
Determine why the tenant is late on paying rent. You could do this by either calling them or by visiting them. In many cases, their reason could be something that can be easily resolved.
For example, it could be a misunderstanding between co-tenants. Sometimes, your tenant could be facing a financial issue. Or, perhaps it could be as simple as your renter forgetting to transfer the money over to you.
In other cases, however, the issue could be much worse. Your renter could have some personal challenges like work-related stress or bereavement. It could also be possible that your tenants were a couple and have split up. Or they could also have lost his or her job.
They could also, albeit very rare, simply refuse to pay due rent.
2. Gather Evidence of Late Rent Payments
Aside from trying to deal with the issue swiftly, ensure that you have accurate records of all correspondence and payments. Ideally, you want the correspondence in writing. It may prove immensely helpful in court.
If the renter agrees to catch up on the late rent payments, put it in writing. It’s also important to mention the resulting consequences should they fail to hold up their end of the bargain. Should the matter end up in court, the court will see you made some efforts to resolve the issue with the renter.
3. Send Your Tenant a Late Rent Notice (“Pay or Quit” Notice)
Check the local landlord-tenant laws to find out what the specifics of the late rent notice should be. If you find the process daunting, consider hiring a qualified landlord-tenant attorney.
Basically, a “Pay or Quit” notice gives your renter two options: to pay due rent or leave the premises. If the renter fails to do either of the two after X amount of days, then you can file a lawsuit against them in court.
4. File a Lawsuit Against the Renter
If the tenant fails to act on the “Pay or Quit” notice, the next step is to file an eviction action against them. Keep in mind that a legal action is the only way to evict your tenant from your premises.
“Self-help” eviction is illegal. Below are good examples of illegal actions that could land you in legal trouble.
- Intimidating or harassing your renters. Just because your renter has stopped paying rent doesn’t give you a right to make their life miserable.
- Turning off the utilities. If you do this, a court will likely rule that you have “constructively” evicted the tenant. Constructive eviction is illegal.
- Removing the tenant’s belongings prior to an official eviction. This is a big no-no. Only a court-sanctioned sheriff can do this.
- Locking the renter out of the property. By locking them out, you are depriving them of the use of the property. Again, the court would likely view this as constructive eviction. It’s illegal.
Once you pay the court fees, the administrator will schedule your hearing. In most states, this typically takes place anywhere between two to six weeks. On the court date, make sure you carry all relevant evidence and explain your case.
If the judgment is in your favor, you can then hire your county sheriff to rid the tenant off of your property.
5. Consider Paying Your Tenant to Leave
This is a good option to consider rather than an eviction. An eviction process can take anywhere ranging from 10 to 18 months. The loss of rental income during this period can, needless to say, leave you in a bad financial situation.
If you have a mortgage to pay, things may even turn uglier for you. At its worse, the bank could even repossess the property. To avoid this possibility, try to cut a deal with the rogue tenant.
Sure, it sounds like the wrong thing to do. But, if you are a business-minded person, it’s the best option to take especially considering you have a mortgage to service. You could pay them, say, $200, $600, or even $1,000.
The secret here is to act quickly, the moment you notice the tenant has stopped paying rent. Then, consider what your options are and act accordingly. Remember, in whatever you do, make sure your actions are within reason and within the confines of the state rental law.