Expecting push back on rent payment, what to do?

20 Replies

Hi Guys, 

Happy holidays - I'm a very new landlord in Philly (about 1/2 a year) in and I'm expecting 1 of 3 units to push back on paying rent this month. 

The backstory is: Last month, (I wish I could make this up) a racoon climbed the roof and made a hole on the roof & the ceiling drywall last month. I had wildlife guy come out - he instructed to cut a tree out back that the racoons were climbing, which I did promptly and then I patched the hole. The tenant volunteered to stay at her partners while this happened, think it was a few days. 

There was a metal plate over the ceiling, while the exterior work was done and early this month I had the drywall repaired and painted like new. The repair guy came outside of the time range he gave me - I think he said monday, one day job and he came back on Tuesday to finish. When he was done, the debris from the fix was on her shoes/house plants. 

She paid her rent last month!


Earlier this month - she sent me pictures of the debris after drywall was fixed AND stated that she was going to pay the rent this month -- LESS the cleaning fees. I told her to make a complete rent payment and I'd be happy to pay for her clean, she didn't respond. The email was about a page long and was more of the tenant venting. The issue is, it's the 1st and both other tenants have paid -- not sure how to proceed in this late/potentially unpaid scenario.

Questions: 

1) What do I even do if come tomorrow morning she hasn't paid. I usually collect via zelle or venmo - I have a late fee written into the lease, but how would/should I actually enforce this? What do you all normally do in sequence when rent is late?

2) I own a property in philly thats between a new construction and and abandoned home (I think PHA owns the abandoned building) -- the entire rear of the abandoned home NOT boarded so it's causing huge potential issues for my property. Is there action I can take? I've already filled the 311 forms, but not sure what that'll do.

Thanks for the feedback in advance!

Not a solution to your current problem but M2M agreements solve so many issues that cannot be covered in lease agreements. I doubt many of us have thought to include the racoon hole clause in our documents. 

@Sean Ezeamama, what did she quote the cost of the cleaning fee? Assuming it would be more than what you would use to clean up? Did she take photos of all the places that needed cleaning?

I think PA laws allow you to deduct if rent is unpaid (link). Can't you just take the difference in rent from her security deposit? If you did collect a deposit, I would consider just telling her: if she doesn't pay then you'll just have to deduct from the deposit. 

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Hey; crap happens.  Who could have guessed that a racoon would come calling.   Sounds like the repair work was done promptly.  Drywall typically does take a couple of days; replace the sheetwork and mud one day, let dry, come back the next day and remud, let dry, sand, prime and paint.

She got debris on her shoes and house plants.  So...you wash the leaves of the darn house plants and shake out your shoes.  This is not rocket science.  How much "damage" did the photos she sent you show?

What do I do when rent is late?  Three day Pay or Quit notice with the late fee included.  If no response after this time period filing for a dispossessory (our version of an eviction).

I want to make sure I'm understanding this correctly: she wants to pay the net of the rent minus the cleaning fee, you want her to pay you the full rent and you reimburse her the cleaning fee?

It comes out the same in the end and you still report the full rent payment being received in addition to the expense for maintenance. If you're still looking at the same amount of cash in your pocket, then either method works equally.

Did I overlook something in the post and miss a particular point?

Hey Guys, thanks for the feedback thus far. Super helpful. 

The issue is that we never came to a resolution - She was ranting it (super long email) and I wanted to refrain from having a back and forth. In the email rant, she stated shed send receipts for the dry cleaning/apt cleaning - and she'd pay the rent lesser the fees - she never actually sent the pics or paid.


The damage was minimal - dust on shoes and a house plant.


@Chelsea Monk Good catch - I did state that I'm willing to assist, as I know the incident as a whole was inconvenient - however, I didn't appreciate her stating that she'd pay lesser rent, it wasn't an ask. You're totally right, it's the same outcome numerically - my fear is that accepting a deducted rent that she demanded with no pushback sets a pretty bad precedent. Not sure, you guys tell me?

Nonetheless I'll reach out letting her know that the rent is considered late and it should be paid or I'll have to proceed with late fees/pay or quit. I'll also restate the offer of covering the clean.

Thoguhts?

Yes, reiterate that you're happy to cover the cleaning costs with receipts. Its up to you if you allow a rent reduction or reimburse her. 

Is she generally a good tenant? Any other issues before this one? Does the lease contract cover a situation for reimbursing maintenance?

Personally, if she is otherwise a good tenant and has never caused me any trouble, I'd let her reduce her rent. No sense creating bad blood over the same net effect. I don't personally think it would set a bad precedent in this situation as long as everything else is good. I'm sure others would probably disagree with me on that, but its just my personal opinion. 

@Sean Ezeamama I would send the notice to quit if she does not pay in full on time. This should just open the conversation up and your excuse can be "oh it's just part of our process. We have to issue the notice on time". If it gets too contentious, you may want her out anyway. If the notice gets her to work with you, then it did it's job. You just need PROOF of how much she paid to clean up, then you need to decide if that is reasonable, then decide how to reimburse. 

I would argue that she had some duty to move her belongings out of the way of the repair to avoid damage. Without knowing all of the details, it sounds like this stuff was immediately below the ceiling repair and she did nothing to move it. The repair person clearly didn't do enough to avoid the damage, but either way, it should have been moved. 

UPDATE: This morning I sent an email letting her know that as per the written lease, theres a 2 day grace period and it's officially considered late tomorrow. 

Being that she sent over no receipts (cleaning estimate) and I previously stated my goal was to remain amicable if possible - I offered that she pay the rent less $150 by the end of the day unless she'd incur fees and I've have to proceed with formal measures. 

My plan is to serve the 10 day notice to quit for the unpaid rent + late fees tomorrow December 3rd -- any feedback on this?

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I recommend you refer back to the lease. I'm not sure how yours reads, but most likely they can't short pay the lease without your agreement in writing. They also need to pay the rent based on the agreement with grace period and late fees applying after grace period (if there is one). Now...If they're a good tenant, a long time tenant, and they pay on time. Then, I would try to work it out with them. If that does mean short paying based on agreed price in writing a you believe it's fair, then I would do it. 

Originally posted by @Sean Ezeamama:

Hi Guys, 

Happy holidays - I'm a very new landlord in Philly (about 1/2 a year) in and I'm expecting 1 of 3 units to push back on paying rent this month. 

The backstory is: Last month, (I wish I could make this up) a racoon climbed the roof and made a hole on the roof & the ceiling drywall last month. I had wildlife guy come out - he instructed to cut a tree out back that the racoons were climbing, which I did promptly and then I patched the hole. The tenant volunteered to stay at her partners while this happened, think it was a few days. 

There was a metal plate over the ceiling, while the exterior work was done and early this month I had the drywall repaired and painted like new. The repair guy came outside of the time range he gave me - I think he said monday, one day job and he came back on Tuesday to finish. When he was done, the debris from the fix was on her shoes/house plants. 

She paid her rent last month!


Earlier this month - she sent me pictures of the debris after drywall was fixed AND stated that she was going to pay the rent this month -- LESS the cleaning fees. I told her to make a complete rent payment and I'd be happy to pay for her clean, she didn't respond. The email was about a page long and was more of the tenant venting. The issue is, it's the 1st and both other tenants have paid -- not sure how to proceed in this late/potentially unpaid scenario.

Questions: 

1) What do I even do if come tomorrow morning she hasn't paid. I usually collect via zelle or venmo - I have a late fee written into the lease, but how would/should I actually enforce this? What do you all normally do in sequence when rent is late?

2) I own a property in philly thats between a new construction and and abandoned home (I think PHA owns the abandoned building) -- the entire rear of the abandoned home NOT boarded so it's causing huge potential issues for my property. Is there action I can take? I've already filled the 311 forms, but not sure what that'll do.

Thanks for the feedback in advance!

It’s amazing how tenants want the landlord to be sympathetic over every one of their shortcomings, but looks for reasons not to pay the rent if it can be blamed on the landlord.

UPDATE: So, a moment ago she follows up with a task rabbit screenshot - the total says $305.88 dated in November - but I cant tell the service performed. 


Initially, I offered her $150 since I didn't know the total. She Paid 1,000 flat - $250 less the rent total after submitting the 305$ total. 


Thankfully the apt is all fixed and there should be no other issues in the near term - but, very interesting....

Not going to weigh in on the payment, but who leaves valuable stuff under a drywall hole / repair in progress?  Literally the 1st thing she should have done is move her stuff.

The 1st thing a judge would bring (not that it should get that far) up is her responsibility to mitigate damages.  Moving her shoes costs literally nothing but 90-240 seconds of time!

Depends on how your relationship is and any "grace periods," but I would at least get the "pay or quit" notice ready!

I see your update this minute -- if that works, then carry on!  Happy Holidays!

@Sean Ezeamama

As a rule, a long and passionate message shows the problem is more emotional than procedural. If you can meet the emotional need being manifested, you will likely find the actual complaint melts away.

I would recommend that you talk to her and let her spill every drop of her negative emotion. Ask questions to show you are interested in her experience and how it affected her. Show interest and empathy to an almost theatrical extent without being patronizing. When she has said everything she can and has nothing left (even repeated a couple times) ask her to help you find a solution together and you will probably find that she will agree to almost anything you reasonably propose.

Often, a customer/tenant/client outrage is simply the manifestation of a need to feel understood. Help them feel understood and the outrage will vanish.

@Sean Ezeamama Consider in the future picking up the telephone to discuss such matters. The conversation would go something like this: I received your email and it seems you are very upset? I normally do not reimburse for anything that has not been pre-approved although I am willing to make a one time exception. I will reimburse you $X once you provide me with receipts (my Accountant or the Government requires receipts). Do you understand or have any questions?

Immediately follow up with email based on our conversation upon receipt of your rent payment and paid cleaning receipts I will immediately reimburse you for $x.

This covers a lot of areas - verbal direct communication (people hide behind venting emails), landlord fairness, any reimbursements must be pre-approved and receipts provided as well as a paper trail for Tenants File.

Tenant Management - Open, Clear, and direct Communication is key. In a multiple unit situation a formal letter would be mailed to all tenants noting the procedure (as documented in the lease agreement) or an addendum for being reimbursed and no monies may be deducted from rent. (I do not allow deductions from rent).

The more effective you are at Tenant Management establishing clear direct formal procedures and picking-up the phone (when necessary) will minimize Tenant Management Issues and allow time for all other business matters.

See how much she's going to charge for cleaning fees.  It seems petty, but you should also have gone into the unit and made sure there were no damages inside and the place was clean.  Chelsea's suggestion is good.   You followed up and offered her $150 for cleaning which is probably more than fair.  If she doesn't pay, yes follow up with a notice.  For her to ask for $305 is nuts.  Let it go and she took off $250 and do not renew her lease.