What to do if your tenant is not paying rent (and what not to do)

The RPM Evolve blog

What to do if your tenant is not paying rent (and what not to do)

As a landlord or property owner, there may be times when you struggle with rent collection. Here is what to do if your tenant is not paying rent (and what not to do).

You prefer high-quality tenants that you can count on to pay their rent on time and care for your rental property as if it were their own. What landlord wouldn’t want this ideal situation? Unfortunately, no matter how thoroughly you screen and vet your new tenants, sometimes things just happen.

If you find yourself in a situation where your tenant is not paying rent, you need to know what to do – and what not to do – to protect yourself and your property.

Double-Check Your Records

As a landlord, you have a lot of documents to manage. And, if you have more than one property, you have a lot of documents and financial records to manage, as well. While you generally know that your tenant is not paying rent or is behind on payments, you still want to double-check your records before you take any further steps. After all, there are few things worse than erroneously accusing someone of owing you money.

You may want to take a look at the lease your tenant signed. It is common for you to assume you know what the lease says, but just in case it has changed or something was discussed and adjusted at the lease signing, etc., then it is good to confirm the details of grace periods, late fees, and such before you approach your tenants about their outstanding rent.

Send a Notice to the Tenant

A late rate notice should be sent out to your tenant, either by mail or by personally delivering it to the residence. Some landlords even choose to tape the notice on the front door so that there is no chance that it will be missed.

This notice is not legally required, but it does serve a purpose on multiple levels. First, it acts as proof that you did give written notice to the tenant of all past-due fees, including a breakdown. This can benefit you should you have to pursue legal action in the future. Keep a record of these notices if your tenants are late more than once.

Next, these notices can also help jog the memory of the tenant. Maybe he or she knows that they are behind in rent and are trying to get their funds together. Or, perhaps they have been dealing with a family emergency of some sort and didn’t even realize it was time for rent. Life can get busy and distracting. It can also send changes when you least expect it. Because you don’t know what your tenant is truly dealing with, providing this late rent notice is a good place to start.

Reach Out to Your Tenant

You have confirmed that your tenants are late with their rent – and you have sent them a notice of all amounts that are due. Your next step should be to reach out to the tenant via telephone (though this can absolutely be done before sending the notice). Good landlord tenant relationships are essential, and opening the lines of communication is always important. Reach out and see if you can find out what is going on with the outstanding rent.

Do not call continuously or try to accuse your tenants of withholding their rent. This could be considered harassment. Simply call once to speak to the tenant. If you don’t reach the tenant, leave a general message. If the tenant calls you back, great but if not, let it go. Do not call again.

Send a 5-Day Notice

This notice to terminate the lease is generally considered one of the first steps of the eviction process. It lets your tenant know that you are serious about collecting past-due money and you will pursue legal actions to do so.

The laws will vary based on your state, but in Arizona, once the tenant has broken the lease terms, the landlord has the legal authority to move forward with an eviction. This notice serves as your intent to do so. It gives the tenant five days to pay the outstanding amount due in full. On the 6th day, or after, an eviction can be filed with the court. Ensure that you are following proper Arizona eviction laws during this time.

Many times this notice pushes the tenants even harder to gather up that rent and get it to you.

File for an Eviction

If you have done all of the above and your tenant has still not come through with the outstanding rent payment, perhaps it is time to file for an eviction.

This is not something anyone ever wants to do – especially because it takes money and time to do. But when a tenant is not paying rent, you need to remind yourself that this is your business – your livelihood – and you need to protect it.

Consider having an inspection at this time so you can document any damage and include it in the fees sought as part of the eviction process.

Remember, this is a legal situation that will take time. Do not try to remove your tenants from the property, change the locks, turn off utilities, or remove their belongings until the eviction process within the court is 100% complete.

Tips and Other Important Things to Note if Your Tenant Is Not Paying Rent

When handling your tenants and rent collection, there are a few things you can do that may make life a bit easier when it comes to tenants who don’t pay their rent. Based on experience, we have put together a few things that you ought to consider.

  • Enforce your lease terms consistently and promptly. Dragging your feet to give tenants extra time or letting things slide may cause your tenants to push the limits in the future.
  • Partial rent payments may void any legal actions you have (depending on your laws). Focus on only accepting full rent payments.
  • Follow the laws that govern you. Don’t try to make things up as you go, make assumptions, or ignore certain steps. This could potentially land you in a lot of hot water.
  • All tenants should be listed and addressed on every notice and legal document.
  • Always document if you and your tenant have a discussion about rent, create a payment arrangement, or the like — follow it up in writing and keep record of it.

If all of this sounds to be too much to handle, hire an experienced property manager – such as Real Property Management Evolve. This will save you from all the steps of trying to collect money and place it in the hands of the professionals.

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