Lamest Excuses for Late Rent by Tenants

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In an effort to entertain our readers, I return to our forums. One of our users, All Cash, asked what excuses people got from their tenants when the rent was late or simply did not show up. I’ll give you a few great ones our members have heard:

Las Vegas Real Estate “I had it on the first but when you didn’t call I spent it”

GreenfieldentI had a tenant who said they mailed the rent out and they mailed it to the correct address. BUT they did not put a stamp on the envelope. They actual thought the U.S. postal service would still mail it out without a stamp.

All Cash1. Man, I had to buy tires for my TA! I found out TA meant Trans Am, so I quit renting to people who were more in love with their cars than with a roof over their head.

2. I’m a bit short because I started my own (sheetrocking) business! No, YOU didn’t start a sheetrocking business, I started a sheetrocking business!

3. Tenant calls and says on the way over with the rent. “It better be full rent” I said, “it’s all there” he said. Shows up an hour and a half later (the house is about 2 miles away) but the rent is short $250! Hey you said you had it all, I HAD it all but I saw a cool stereo on my way over”! Let me type you a receipt I said and typed him a three day notice to quit the premises and gave him that with the receipt. I hope you like living in the stereo!

If you have any good stories, stop by our real estate investing forums and visit the Lamest Excuses for Late Rent Thread

About Author

Joshua Dorkin

Joshua Dorkin is a serial entrepreneur, investor, podcaster, publisher, educator, and co-author of How to Invest in Real Estate. He started BiggerPockets to help democratize the real estate investing landscape for himself and others, aiming to make it accessible for everyone, regardless of income or education. Today, BiggerPockets is the premier real estate investing website online with over one million members and reaching over 70 million people with the message of financial freedom through real estate investing. Joshua, along with his wife and three daughters, make their home in Denver, Colorado, and spend any time they can traveling, exploring, and adventuring. Read more about Joshua’s story in 5280 and


  1. Well, some of the funniest stories I’ve heard have come from my partner, who manages one of our properties himself. He’s gotten hicks with pit bulls who say things like, “Na, I’ll be honest with ya. My last landlord don’t like me one bit.” Well, why is that, my partner would ask. “Cuz I owe ’em a buncha money.”

  2. I inherited some nightmare tenants when I bought my first property. One guy in particular would get paid on Friday afternoon and be drunk and broke by Friday evening when I stopped by for the rent. I threatened to kick him out unless he met me at his work and signed over his check to me, which he did on numerous occasions. He also once talked his boss into giving him an advance to pay last month’s rent, but his boss would only agree to it if I came by and picked up the money directly. This tenant was 45 years old. Sad.

  3. Simple rule, when you go over the lease with the tenant also show them what a notice to vacate looks like. If you do not have the rent by the 5th, personally hand them the notice to vacate. If you do not get the rent right then, start the eviction process. If you handle your REI business in this manner you will be much happier in the long run. If you decide to listen to any words coming from the tenants mouth, you will not do good in landlording. I would advise you to cut your losses and immediately sell your properties while they are current on the mortgage and occupied with paying tenants.

    I have learned that if they have not paid the rent and their lips are moving, they are lying.

    • Dennis –

      From one in-the-trenches landlord to another, I say you have it pretty well summed up. Right on brother.

      We tell our tenants that there is absolutely NOTHING more important than honoring the legal contract you have signed by paying rent IN FULL, ON TIME.

      On our application we ask for emergency contacts and explain that if rent is late, we consider that an emergency.

  4. Sad to say but I really don’t agree with Dennis. I am one of those who find it hard to pay on time. I’m actually struggling right now. I just lost my job, my car is leaking transmission fluid (without a car I can’t find a new job to pay these bills), I have other bills behind as it is, and my landlord surprised me last night with a rent visit. Of course I panicked, I don’t want to lose my home. I have an amazing landlord and I’m not giving up without a fight. Just because I don’t have all of my rent doesn’t mean I’m a liar. I just wish there was some miracle to help right now.

    • Weighing in here very late, but Lisa, I couldn’t disagree with you more.

      When you have no money, you can’t go to your regular grocery store and take your groceries without paying; it’s theft.

      If you pump a tank full of gas and drive off without paying, it’s theft.

      If you stay in a hotel and leave without paying, that’s theft too.

      It’s only in residential rentals that, somehow, not paying for a product/service that you are using isn’t criminal.

      And it should be.


  5. I would have to agree with lisa, not all tenants are liars that can not pay rent on time, alot of things may come up with health issues or loss of a job or even in my case the bills that are in landlords names that we pay they hold until we get a shut off notice in our mail box and everything is racked up and they want us to pay the late charges as well. Even though it says tenant may take off rent they tell us they find it as a threat when we say we will be taking the late charges of our monthly rent. I’m in a boat where i have slum lords who sue for anything just to get money and keeps everyones security deposit and never fixes anything in the house and allows the tenant to do it. when the rent has nothing included, never gives rent receipts, calls every day to harass or shows up in the middle of the night to see if we can pay next months rent early or what day we can have it smelling like alcohol. is there any advice anyone can give me. because they always say we have money so dont go trying anything.

    • Mike,

      You should move. Decent landlords are NOT hard to find. You might want to consider going back to an building after you see a place you like, and asking the other people that go in and out how they like the building. You can just let them know you’re thinking of moving to the area, and you’re looking for a good building, or that you’re considering the vacant apartment on the second floor. Trust me if it’s a slum lord they’ll let you know. They’ll also let you know the land lord’s pet peeves, so you can avoid them. Mine are late rent and not recycling. I make that pretty clear when I’m interviewing tenants, so I don’t usually have any difficulties.

  6. I agree with Doug. I am a responsible landlord and my pet peeves are paying the rent on time and taking care of the property. If a tenant can’t pay the rent that means I can’t pay my bills which means my tenant will be moving out quickly.

    I also agree with Doug regarding talking to other tenants. I tell all people that are considering moving into one of my properties to knock on doors and ask people questions. From the tenant side it’s important to know what you’re signing up for and you should do your due diligence before signing a lease.

  7. So far I’ve been finding that people are who they are, no matter how much they are paying in rent. I’m trying to be the best landlord possible (ask if anything needs fixing anytime I see them), and at this point I have pretty good tenants. Interestingly, I’ve found that in general people who grew up in a home owned by their parents make much better tenants/room mates. Nothing classist or anything, but the “let the landlord fix it” attitude seems to be learned in childhood, & lifelong renters seem to be oblivious to the “little” things like water dripping under the cabinet, or leaky toilet tank. I’m still working on things in my (one!) rental. It’s inconvenient for them (I realize that) but I’ve promised my tenants that nothing I do to upgrade the place while they are there will raise their rent. They get an upgraded place, & if they do move the place is already ready to rent for a higher rate with minimal down time. If they don’t move & I keep good tenants for years until the upgrades wear out it was STILL a good investment (this is a rural area, good tenants are a treasure, & this family cares for it as if it’s theirs!).
    Just for the record, this is a long-term “buy & hold while it pays for itself”, not a flip or rent-for-the-max. I live 800 miles away, with my parents as prop. managers, so minimal turnover & “easy” tenants are more cost-effective in the long run than an extra few $/mos & high turnover.

  8. I disagree. Excuses are excuses. Even during hard times, responsible people will find a way to meet their obligations. And if that means downsizing, or moving to a less expensive place, or asking family for help etc. Landlords are not family, friends etc. Not paying rent is a violation of trust, a breach of contract, and I can surely say I never, ever was late even during hard times.

    So anyone saying they are going through hard times, that’s life and just another excuse if you use whatever excuse to not pay and meet your obligations. There is a reason people are in that position in the first place. That’s always been my experience with people who seem to always have a hard time — not planning for a rainy day. Instead of saving for an emergency fund or a financial cushion, they spend as if life will always be good.

    My advice to people who are having a hard time meeting their obligations now is to reflect on why they are in that position, and suck it up and make the hard decisions. Stop whining and stop making excuses for your failures. Take FULL responsibility for your actions and sacrifice to be trustworthy. To the people who think they are in SPECIAL circumstances that gives them an excuse to live for free off the backs of others, you’re not the only people who have gone through tough times. So why are you in such financial hardship and not be able to meet your obligations. What mistakes have you made financially that led you to this place.

    This advice is from someone who isn’t rich by a long shot, who’s not in the best health and had surgery 4 times. I still met all my financial obligations, and paid all my bills on time.

  9. Update — the tenants I’d really liked had to move (he got a better job in a different town) but left the house clean and in good shape. I’d had a chance to do a bit more upgrading, and got even BETTER tenants — asking me about when routine preventative maintenance should be done — fabulous!
    Something that may be relevent to the discussion though — month-to-month vs.1 year lease
    I know that the year lease is sort of the “gold standard”, but I really prefer month-to-month, as it allows tenants to move if something happens. My landlord parents’ theory is that good, happy tenants will contine to stay as long as they can (not just a year), and bad tenants I don’t want to keep for an entire year anyhow. I had to “ask” my first tenants to leave at about 9 months (a call from the chief of police…’nuff said!).

    Also (gonna sound like an ad here LOL) I found MySmartMove. EVERYONE – even roommates get screened — best idea ever! I swear I’m not an advertisement for them or anything, but it really is a great service.

  10. It’s pretty sad and I’ve heard pretty much everything over the past10 years so I have a deal with my wife (although I don’t tell my tenants). I will forgive rent for one month if a tenant has a police report stating that they were abducted by aliens who stole their wallet and cheque book.

    Haven’t had to give a month of free rent as yet and any other excuse gets the standard “that’s unfortunate… here’s your eviction notice.”

    One last comment; I’m 40 years old an I’ve never had a problem with a bank “screwing up” but it seems that a great deal of renters are constantly having problems with their respective banks misplacing (or misappropriating) funds to the extent that they can’t pay their rent! Funny how the bank always screws up!

  11. I completely agree — have one tenant that always seems to be late — but in her case, it’s her employer — she doesn’t have a bank account herself and always pays me in money orders (or cash). Her employer hardly ever gives her the paycheck on her payday (so she says).

  12. The problems of my tenants (outside an issue with the apartment needing repairs, etc.) should not be made to be my problem. We all have problems. I am running a business. I am not a charity, family or the government. Tenants often find a way to pay for cable, pizza delivery and cell phones, but rent is not even in the top 10. With half of my tenants it is always “next week”.

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