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What to Do If a Tenant Doesn't Pay Rent (And What Not to Do)

What to Do If a Tenant Doesn't Pay Rent (And What Not to Do)

Managing tenants isn't all fun and games.

Sometimes, you're forced to deal with messy situations like late rent payments or payments that don't come at all.

With more Americans renting now than at any point in the last 50 years, landlords will be forced to deal with a few challenging situations.

If your tenants aren't cooperating, keep reading for a closer look at what to do if a tenant doesn't pay rent.

What to Do if a Tenant Doesn't Pay Rent: Understanding the Situation

Before you leap into action, it's important to take a look at the situation.

If this is the first time the tenant has missed a payment or only a few days have gone by, it might be best to get in touch with the tenant first.

Another smart move at this point is to check the lease. You may have forgotten some of the details.

Contact the Tenant

The next thing you’ll want to do when a tenant hasn’t paid rent is contact them.

A phone call is the simplest and most direct method. If you don’t get in touch with the renter, send them a written note to follow up.

You might find that the tenant simply forgot, encountered an issue with their bank, or have simply run into some sort of emergency.

A simple conversation may help you collect the overdue rent or decide what action you need to take next.

Give the Tenant Notice

If you still haven’t collected the rent after talking to the tenant, or can’t get in touch with them, it’s time to take action.

Your first step should be to send the renter what’s often called a "pay or quit" notice. This notifies the tenant that they have a certain amount of time to pay the rent (usually three to five days) or vacate the property.

Local laws often dictate how notices like this must be issued, so be sure to familiarize yourself with any requirements.

Evicting a Tenant

If you’ve given a tenant a fair pay or quit notice and haven’t received payment, it may be time to move forward with an eviction.

Eviction laws vary from state to state and many require ample notice and specific procedures to be followed.

Once you start the eviction process, be aware that the case will have to work its way through the court system.

What Not to Do

Dealing with a tenant who hasn’t paid can be very frustrating.

The eviction process is no picnic either. Waiting for the court to make a decision can take time and you’ll likely lose money in lost rent and court costs.

But, whatever you do, keep your cool. Taking matters into your own hands and changing the locks or shutting off utilities is illegal.

Don’t try to physically remove tenants or their belongings either. Let the system do the work if you can’t come to agreeable terms with the tenant.

Your Turn

Figuring out what to do if a tenant doesn't pay rent is a real challenge for many landlords.

But, before you lose your cool and try to force the tenant to leave or pay, try following the steps above. You may be able to work something out with the tenant and prevent legal or financial issues for both parties.

Not interested in dealing with difficult tenants? Get in touch with us and learn how a property management company can save you the trouble and maximize your investment.


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