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Tips On Dealing With Tenants Who Fall Behind On Rent

Mar 1, 2008
Since we live in a free market society and not the Soviet Union of old no one is guaranteed a free place to live. (Please don't consider that an endorsement of the USSR. The living conditions there were not the best in the world) As such, tenants sign a lease or an agreement to pay a certain amount of money per month for rent. Conversely, the landlord expects to be compensated for the dwelling they have provided. Yup, it is as simple that except for the times when it is not so simple. Financial situations can change and that means that tenants may end up falling behind on their rent. In such an instance, the landlord must take appropriate steps to deal with the situation.

When the tenant falls behind on his or her rent you should not chastise or express anger with the tenant. Simply inform the tenant that they are late and that payment is expected. In some instances, you may have to levy a late fee with the tenant although this could be waived under based on personal discretion. If the tenant balks at having to pay a late fee then it best to inform the tenant that it would not be fair to the other renters to provide special privileges to a tardy tenant.

If the tenant is unable to make rent payments always try to be patient and work with the tenant. Sometimes bad financial situations are unavoidable and will reverse in time. Perhaps it may even be best to ask the tenant to pay what they can afford then come up with the rest of the payment later. This will show that you can work with the tenant and are willing to give them a little leeway. Of course, there are limits to leeway.

If it gets to the point that the tenant is way behind on the rent and is not going to "make good" on what they owe then you have to take drastic actions. This, of course, refers to eviction for non-payment of rent. Now, there are different rules for this type of eviction that vary from state to state. In Massachusetts, for example, you can order someone to vacate within 14 days. In California, you can not order someone to vacate less than 30 days. Also, there may be other statutory procedures required such as seeking a court order or sending a letter of intent that you will soon be issuing a letter of eviction. Then again, if there is no lease you may be able to evict without any special procedures.

Please note: in certain states eviction notices that are based on non-payment of rent may be compelled to include the statement that the eviction order is voided if all back rent is paid within a certain time frame. Again, you need to check with your state's specific laws for further clarification.

Dealing with a tenant who is not paying his or her rent is not always the most joyous situation, but it does come with the territory of being a landlord. So, if you have to deal with it then deal with it properly and within the letter of the law. This will save you a lot of hassles down the road.
About the Author
James Mattox is the founder and CEO of WhatsTheRent.com, a 100% free site to search for roommates, apartments, houses, condos and more. Free and user friendly to either list a property for rent or search for a new place to call home. If it is for rent, you can find it at WhatsTheRent.com
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