So your tenant stopped paying rent. And maybe it’s not the first time — now what? Eviction may be your first thought, but it’s a potentially costly and time-consuming one.
Before jumping to drastic measures, take a beat to walk through these smaller steps. An easier and more amicable resolution might be possible.
Take stock of the situation
Consider the tenant’s history. Is this the first time they missed a rent payment? If so, you can typically resolve it with a written reminder. Also, check the lease agreement
which likely includes a late-fee policy (allowed in most states) that provides a framework for how to proceed.
Call or visit the renter
Get in touch quickly to find out why they didn’t pay the rent. Ideally, you’d do this in person or on the phone, followed up with a written note. You might hear something you didn’t expect: Maybe there was a bank error, or the tenant simply forgot. Or perhaps the renter misunderstood the grace period or late-fee policy. Whatever the reason, make it clear that the rent must be paid on time. You can then assess a late fee, if state or local laws permit.
The prevailing wisdom is to act quickly and be respectful — but also firm. You don’t want the renter to be late again, and you don’t want to get a reputation as a pushover.
If you wish to make an exception for an otherwise wonderful longtime tenant (and you don’t think you’ll later wind up in court for eviction proceedings), make a written agreement spelling out the extension terms. And if they miss
deadline — be prepared to end the lease.
If the tenant is broke, you most likely won’t be paid, so consider saying that you’ll end the lease without penalty if the renter moves out within the week. Alternatively,
work with the renter on a plan to move out
within a reasonable amount of time.
Pay or quit notice
In most states, you can serve the delinquent tenant a
r quit notice
as soon as the rent is past due. It’s a written notice that spells out how much is owed in rent and late fees and when the tenant absolutely must pay.
Local rules dictate how to do it — usually by mail, though some states require it in person. Often landlords must allow three to five days to pay. Check with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney for local rules and regulations.
Pay the tenant to move out
Your goal is to get a new
renter in the unit as soon as possible, so you could get creative and offer the delinquent tenant
money to move out
if the place is left in good, rentable shape.
If all of the above fails — it’s time to start eviction proceedings. You may be tempted to go it alone and immediately turn off utilities or change the locks to
deal with the problem tenant
but that’s illegal.
how to evict a renter
vary by jurisdiction, but in most cases, you’ll have to wait through lengthy court proceedings. Just remember to keep your cool — there’s no sense inviting a lawsuit for harassment — and consult an eviction lawyer who can guide you through the process. And if you win the eviction judgment, you can enlist law enforcement to remove the tenant by force.