Non paying tenant advice

32 Replies

Hi BP community.  Wanted to put up a question to get some suggestions from landlords who might have gone through a similar situation.  I am dealing with a non paying tenant in Massachusetts.

She is a single mom who moved in beginning of 2021.  Rent has been on time until about 2 months ago when she asked for an extra week to pay, or post date a check.  Month of November she begins by saying she will be a bit late on the full rent, to a week later saying she can only afford to pay half rent, to now saying she can't pay any rent until next month.  She has supposedly applied for RCAPS program which helps tenants pay their rent if they have fallen behind.  The program kicks in once the tenant is 2 months behind on rent.

I have not received any paperwork from RCAPS to do my part for her application process.  In her last contact with me she claims that I knew she was having issues paying rent and I could have started the RCAPS application months ago as if that's my responsibility.

I have kept track of all my communication with her.  My question is what is the best way to approach this?  Should I sent out a demand for rent letter?  Should I start an eviction process?  Can I ask her to provide proof of the application for RCAPS?  How can I navigate this process basically as gingerly as possible?

Also, her lease runs out May 2022.  Renewal notices go about 60 days prior to end of lease agreement.  If RCAPS does not kick in soon or if she is dragging her feet in any way I will not be renewing her lease.  Come May, even if worst case scenario happens and she has not paid until May, can I still have her move out?  Lease is done, I don't wish to renew.  Is that within my right?

Any ideas, suggestions how to navigate this process would be much appreciated.  Thanks BP fam.

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When tenants start to fall behind on rent payments the writing is on the wall that things are going to continue rapidly downhill.  You can't negotiate this gingerly, which unfortunately, many landlords do.  It gets pretty depressing going to the mailbox day by day hoping there's a rent check in there only to have moths fly out at you when you open it up.

  It's time to end this (for me her comment that you should have known she was having trouble paying the rent and done something about it closed the books on this one).

Is it currently difficult to evict someone for nonpayment of rent in your state?  If so, hire an eviction attorney to initiate the process with this tenant.

Give her a deadline to pay or move. She can get help from other organizations.  She should have qualified for the rent based on her income, if she lost her job, there are plenty out there now.  If she doesn't pay and doesn't want to move, tell her you will start the eviction process.

If her lease is up in May 2022, she didn't move in that long ago, so to already be behind is not a good sign.  

@Arian Mustafa

Dude, can it with the "handle gingerly" crap and learn the law, learn about the RCAPS process, quit the hobby landlording or hire a property manager. Both you and your tenant deserve better. It's going to cost money and effort to learn. Commit. Type "real estate lawyer Worcester" into Google, find a phone number, make a phone call, have the conversation you need, hire the person you need.

Arian,

Sadly I am in a similar situation but not exactly.  I purchased a 2 family in Worcester where I was told the tenants were on Section 8, turns out it was RAFT(covid aid) through RCAP.  RCAP continued to pay the original owner (as they have limited ability to change anything) and i would get the checks a month or so later.  No one could produce any paperwork.  When that ran out they applied to RCAP again, which took more months.  Just so you are aware, I have been made whole, or actually will be, according to RCAP and a couple more checks keep coming.  

Since I have received the money from the government (the tenants have paid me 50% rent for a couple months) and at this point I am whole you would think I would advocate letting the government program play its course.  However, I sadly am in the camp of the others above.  I am tired.  I am tired of trying to get my tenants to pay.  I am tired of waiting for RAFT to pay and figure out that I am the owner, and send me random checks for the wrong amount with no indication of what month they are paying for.  Simply tired.

I can't wait until spring to end things and try to start over with new tenants.  At this point I just want to start over.  

The key decision here is if you want this person as a tenant, and if you think you can get a better one.  Short term pain of a couple lost months may be better than dragging things out for 6-12 months if the result may ultimately be the same.

Best of luck on your choice.

Start the eviction process. That is the only way to motivate her to either pay, leave or be forced to leave. You would be amazed how people hustle to solve problems when they are backed into a corner. Right now they have a inexperienced landlord they can take advantage of, so no need to worry about paying.

I am in a somewhat similar situation, altho not exactly. What I am doing since the eviction moratorium is long gone and none of the federal/state programs to pay back rent say I cant evict, I will follow what my lease says which means 3 day notice to pay or quit etc etc....  I will involve my attorney to ensure I have my ducks in a row.....  

You will need to be unemotional about it....  Follow your lease and get your atty involved asap.  Tenants sadly need to remember that they signed a legal document that requires payment of rent. No more living off your LL. 

Originally posted by @Craig Mitchelldyer :

@Arian Mustafa many states still have covid rent relief money available to people who might need it. Worth looking into as well.

FWIW these programs end on Dec 1 - at least here in Oregon/Portland.   Also it takes 3 + months to get paid....  I dont think many LLs are willing to wait that long anymore since we dont have to. 

Originally posted by @Jim K. :

@Arian Mustafa

Dude, can it with the "handle gingerly" crap and learn the law, learn about the RCAPS process, quit the hobby landlording or hire a property manager. Both you and your tenant deserve better. It's going to cost money and effort to learn. Commit. Type "real estate lawyer Worcester" into Google, find a phone number, make a phone call, have the conversation you need, hire the person you need.

No hobby landlord here, just the first time someone has slipped by our vetting process and turned out to be a dud.  Already have a RE attorney notified, however I am trying to be a human being and try to work with the tenant as long as its a two way street.  MA is a tenant friendly state. Before I started the legal route I wanted to give her the opportunity to do right by the lease agreement she signed. 

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Originally posted by @Arian Mustafa :
Originally posted by @Jim K.:

@Arian Mustafa

Dude, can it with the "handle gingerly" crap and learn the law, learn about the RCAPS process, quit the hobby landlording or hire a property manager. Both you and your tenant deserve better. It's going to cost money and effort to learn. Commit. Type "real estate lawyer Worcester" into Google, find a phone number, make a phone call, have the conversation you need, hire the person you need.

No hobby landlord here, just the first time someone has slipped by our vetting process and turned out to be a dud.  Already have a RE attorney notified, however I am trying to be a human being and try to work with the tenant as long as its a two way street.  MA is a tenant friendly state. Before I started the legal route I wanted to give her the opportunity to do right by the lease agreement she signed. 

OK, I understand and appreciate your urge to do the right thing here. I also think landlords cross the border from trying to be a human being and showing mercy to enabling bad behavior once that bad behavior sets in. Just look at the behavior with the RCAPS process. First she says that she's going to go ahead with it, then she turns around and puts it on you. This is a cheap little trick, or a regressive childhood strategy, or a cognitive dysfunction. And once this kind of behavior goes in, the right and most humane thing to do is make it very clear to the tenant in a lasting way that this sort of behavior is not permissible from adults in our society who have signed a contract with each other, because it isn't.

Yes MA is a tenant-friendly state. Generally speaking, PA, and especially Allegheny County where I operate is also considered "tenant-friendly." I was a lot like you a few years and evictions ago, as I've apparently bought properties with inherited tenants that I didn't vet or choose more frequently than you have (or God hates me, which I am perfectly willing to believe). "Tenant-friendly" doesn't mean you need to think in terms of "treading lightly" or "gingerly action" when dealing with crap from tenants. It means the onus is REALLY on you to understand what you can and cannot do with greater clarity than landlords working in a less tenant-friendly state. You need a better understanding of the legal process of eviction and what to do to handle nonpayment, lease noncompliance, and nuisance behavior on the most basic, step-by-step level.

You need to know where you really stand. And right now, all you seem to really know is that you have to be careful. Being careful often becomes an excuse for doing less. You cannot afford this. Don't use the humanity of the situation as a reason to do less. Use it to do more, learn more, have direct and honest conversations, honestly give those who can reform a chance to reform, honestly throw out the trash when the trash is asking for it.

The term "hobby landlording" didn't have to be used in my previous response. I shouldn't have trotted it out. Good luck to you.

@Arian Mustafa I am in New York state which I believe it's currently the most tenant friendly state. There is currently the eviction mortirandum for covid until January 15th. Rumor is it will get extended again. I had felt so blessed not to have any tenants as non-payers through all of this. Then November 1st my most expensive rental decided they too deserved to have some free rent. The I'll wrap in our state is it over they spent it and these tenants owe me $1400. I am trapped, can't evict can't get them out and can't sell the house because they will refuse to leave.

I’ve been burned a few times for being soft like this. I would file for eviction ASAP. Being nice has cost me over 10k from tenants like this.

Originally posted by @Craig Mitchelldyer :

@Mary M. True. But I’d rather get paid eventually than not at all.

 Chances are you won't be paid at all.  I doubt they have filed the paperwork and the longer they are in there, the more rent they will owe you and you will have lost.  Trust me.  There is being nice (ie one off let them pay the rent 1 week late) and being taken advantage of (them not paying and rent and you letting them live there for free).  I did the first only once and learned the second time.  As soon as the moratorium was lifted (in Canada it was over a year ago) when I had a second tenant who hadn't paid, I evicted her.  I didn't listen to any of her stories.  When she left after living there 6 months the place was a mess and it cost me over $2K to clean up and repaint (it was painted before she moved in).

@Arian Mustafa THIS is the sentance that reveals the problem: "Before I started the legal route I wanted to give her the opportunity to do right by the lease agreement she signed"

The idea is good, the problem is that you need to start the legal route in conjunction with giving her the opportunity to do right by the lease agreement. You can stop the legal route any time and for any reason if you choose. But delay on your part encourages more delay, and thats human nature whether tenant or landlord.

If she is being overwhelmed, she has no choice but to prioritize bills by importance. You have signaled pretty strongly this bill is not immediately important. 

Originally posted by @Theresa Harris :
 Chances are you won't be paid at all.  I doubt they have filed the paperwork and the longer they are in there, the more rent they will owe you and you will have lost. 
 

The good thing is that when the tenant files for rent help the LL gets an email to approve the paperwork (and in the "old Days" the tenant would get a letter to give the the LL proving they applied) etc so its pretty easy to know....  also, a LL can help the tenant by sending them links, informing them that money is available etc etc.   




@Pat Goodyear Call your local housing authority or 211 (if you have that) and see if there are resources to help pay your tenants rent. Do it asap maybe google today to see what you can find as the programs appear to be closing.......  

Originally posted by @Mary M. :
Originally posted by @Theresa Harris:
 Chances are you won't be paid at all.  I doubt they have filed the paperwork and the longer they are in there, the more rent they will owe you and you will have lost. 
 

The good thing is that when the tenant files for rent help the LL gets an email to approve the paperwork (and in the "old Days" the tenant would get a letter to give the the LL proving they applied) etc so its pretty easy to know....  also, a LL can help the tenant by sending them links, informing them that money is available etc etc.   




Good to know.  I'm in Canada, so things are very different.  Eviction bans, which varied depending on the province, were lifted a long time ago and we only had limited help for tenants with rent last year (again some locations had it, others didn't).  There is still some covid assistance, but it is for people, not directed at rent.

Mary i already am aware of the programs. The LRAP and tenant programs both closed mid-Nov, no money left. NYS had planned Aug 2021 to end the hold on evictions...but then they extended it until Jan 15. 

I am not sure if any state is so pro tenant. Free lawyers for tenants all day long; current process: 6 day written; then 14 day pay or quit. After 14 BUSINESS days, you can file for eviction, date has to be at least 10 days out. If the tenant pays the rent (not late fees or eviction fees) it all goes away.