Rent is the energy that makes your landlording machine run.
Imagine a hamster on a wheel running around and around in circles, powering your every-day operation. Maintenance needs to be kept up with. Repairs need to be made. Empty units need to be advertised, new tenants need to be moved in (and old ones moved out).
Having a tenant who doesn’t pay rent, therefore, can be more than a little frustrating. You shouldn’t have to ask for money that you’re owed, right?
Sometimes, unfortunately, you do. And especially when you like your tenants and they’ve always paid before, the sudden lack of a check in your mailbox can be a bit tricky to deal with. After all, as we know, any conversations about rent almost immediately drive a wedge between a landlord and a tenant.
The most important thing about rent collection is that you have to be consistent. You can’t “work it out” one month and then expect rent to be paid the next. However, there are some steps you should put in place and jump to every time rent isn’t paid, before beginning the eviction process. This gives your tenant, who may just be forgetful or have hit a rough patch, the chance to set things right.
Start by checking the lease again. A 3-5 day grace period isn’t necessary in most states, but many lease agreements still include them. Check if yours does (our memories aren’t nearly as reliable as we think) and make sure the tenant has actually gone over that period before doing anything.
Late Rent Notice
This step also isn’t required by law, but it works well to remind tenants who might have just forgotten what day of the month it is. The day after the grace period ends, leave one of these at the door with the amount that needs to be paid clearly specified. If you charge late fees, include this, but remember that it’s illegal to charge a fee not specified in your lease. You can’t decide to start charging fees now if you didn’t say you would.
A few days after the Late Rent Notice (or even before) call your tenant to find out what’s going on. Especially if they’re normally good about paying rent, it can be great to hear what’s going on straight from their mouth. Let them know that if rent isn’t paid by the sixth day after the grace period ended (or the rent was due), you’ll have to serve them a Pay or Quit Notice and begin the eviction process. Do your best to make this call kind and respectful. Remember, you don’t want legal action to be necessary. It’s a huge drain on your bank account, not to mention your life.
If, however; on day 6 the rent still isn’t paid, you must begin legal action. Don’t take any money from your tenant after the eviction process is started, because that could cause the entire thing to have to be started over from the beginning. Follow this process consistently every time, and your rent is more likely to be paid and you’re more likely to be seen as a great landlord!