I AIN'T PAY'N!! Ahhh the joys of landlording

80 Replies

I had the property manager send a friendly reminder, reminding tenants that rent is due on the 1st. Tenant 1, paid no problemo. 

Now on the other hand the other tenant states, "I get a three day grace period by law!!!" Oh really????

So, one of my tenants, who conveniently feels we're all out to get her, when she doesn't get her way, says she is not paying the late fee for paying rent late, clearly it wasn't her fault. She stated, if the 1st falls on a weekend she is not responsible.

Thank goodness, today she pays, less the late fee. We had a conversation this evening ending with her yelling at me telling me, "I ain't pay'n, so now what" (Mr. Big Bad landlord....)

Would you push the issue and take her to small claims for a late fee???

Ahhh the joys of landlording...

Davon,

I guess it depends on many variables that you didn't provide, such as how much the late fee is, and whether you want her to continue her tenancy or prefer to get someone else in.  

In general, you need to set the precedence.  You need to set the precedence of what is expected.  You let this go, it becomes learned behavior, and she may start paying whenever you want.

That's the principle.  But how you execute is up to you.  There are other methods beside small claims, but small claims is one of them.  

You need a clause like this in your rental agreement....

"PAYMENTS.  All payments made by Tenant to Landlord after the tenancy commences, no matter how designated by Tenant, will be applied as follows: first, to any outstanding amounts due for damages/repairs, utilities etc.; second, to any outstanding service charges or fees from prior months; third, to any rent outstanding from prior months; fourth, to any service charges or fees due in the current month; and lastly to the current month’s rent."

You have an uncooperative tenant, with attitude, who is proving to be a rule breaker. You need to address this by being swift, firm, fair, and polite. Exercise a little flexibility if the situation warrants. You may be able to turn this around, maybe not. Review the terms of the rental agreement and see if the terms and consequences are clear. If not, edit it. Good luck!

Updated almost 3 years ago

Of course the terms of your rental agreement need to be in compliance with the landlord-tenant law for your jurisdiction. It would be reasonable to allow a grace period before assessing late fees.

I like the path of least resistance especially dealing in small dollar amounts. I would probably let this go but when your lease expires I would look for a new tenant. I recently made a change to my leases and did away with late fees. My leases now offer the tenant a reduction in rent if paid by a certain day. Rent is $1200. Pay by the 5th (date of payment determined by postmark) and tenant gets a $75 discount. Not sure how this works yet...time will tell.

My tenant is not late until after the 5th day.  Molehill turning into a mountain.  

@Marcia Maynard is absolutely right. Do not let them make this a habit. I have a similar clause in my lease and it spells out that fees are paid first, then rent. If you have in your lease then you can explain to her that maybe you didn't communicate it to her very well and that you would consider waving the additional charges for her still being behind in rent if she paid now.

Otherwise, you need to decide if you want to keep the extra headache of trying to collect rent whenever she wants to pay, or get a new tenant.

You mean she made a partial rent payment.... Sorry I don't accept partial payments. The first $$ you sent me goes to your late fee. You are still in default. If she's challenging you like that you don't want her as a tenant. What am I going to do? Follow the provisions outlined in my lease to remove you. Your partial rent payment has been denied.

What I have done in the past with a tenant like this is send her a registered / return receipt letter.  State your policy for late fees per the lease.  Send a copy of that portion of the lease and highlight it.  Then state per the lease you owe me $xx.xx

The kicker is to put at the bottom

cc John Doe, Attorney (highlight it as well)

This should let her know that you mean business!

If you want the tenant to pay on the first, then you need to have an enforceable late fee clause in you lease that doesn't encourage delay. If your lease says that late fee is assessed on the 5th day, some tenants will never pay until the 4th. If your lease has a $25 late fee for each subsequent day that the rent is late, then the tenant is motivated to pay sooner. I changed my late fee clause from the 5th, to the smaller day to day clause. My last tenant probably got the check to me before the first 50% of the time, and almost always before the 5th. He lived there 15 years and I never assessed a late fee, though over the years it probably happened a half a dozen times. This lease, I changed the term to start the late fee on the first day late. My tenant set up automatic payments and he will never be late. You may want to tell your tenant that you will waive the late fee if she sets up automatic payments through an online service like erentpayment or Cozy. She will feel like you are being forgiving and you are more assured that there won't be late payments on her end.

Check your state law, and find out if she is right.

Hint:  She is right, and all of the non-California advice you are getting frankly sucks.

No legal advice.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

You need a clause like this in your rental agreement....

"PAYMENTS.  All payments made by Tenant to Landlord after the tenancy commences, no matter how designated by Tenant, will be applied as follows: first, to any outstanding amounts due for damages/repairs, utilities etc.; second, to any outstanding service charges or fees from prior months; third, to any rent outstanding from prior months; fourth, to any service charges or fees due in the current month; and lastly to the current month’s rent."

You have an uncooperative tenant, with attitude, who is proving to be a rule breaker. You need to address this by being swift, firm, fair, and polite. Exercise a little flexibility if the situation warrants. You may be able to turn this around, maybe not. Review the terms of the rental agreement and see if the terms and consequences are clear. If not, edit it. Good luck!

 THIS, SO MANY TIMES! 

you need to set your lease up so that payments that come in apply to previous late fees FIRST. She continues to not pay, then you can reasonably evict, or deduct from security deposit (potentially) at the end of the lease.

If she only has a few months left, call it education expense and get her out when the time comes. 

Originally posted by @Jim Shepard :

What I have done in the past with a tenant like this is send her a registered / return receipt letter.  State your policy for late fees per the lease.  Send a copy of that portion of the lease and highlight it.  Then state per the lease you owe me $xx.xx

The kicker is to put at the bottom

cc John Doe, Attorney (highlight it as well)

This should let her know that you mean business!

 You better make sure that your attorney knows you are doing that, and you had better actually cc him, or you are going to have problem way worse than a missed late fee.

Once again ...

 In some states (including NC) a late fee is not and cannot be considered part of the rent.  If a tenant pays the rent in full, late without the late fee, the landlord would be breaking the law if he then added that unpaid late fee to the following month's rent and called it "rent", and designated that month's rent as not completely paid because of the previous month's late fee.   The only fees that can be considered "late rent" is unpaid rent.  So, if you refused to accept the full rent being presented to you because you considered it a "partial payment" you are not treating your tenant legally.  In NC and other states with similar laws.

It is my understanding (I am not a lawyer) that a landlord in such states can keep a running tally of all unpaid non-rent fees and at some time in the future sue in small claims court.  But the landlord CANNOT legally retitle unpaid late fees (or repair bills, or utility bills) as unpaid rent.  And if a tenant pays you rent in full and the landlord then repurposes part of that payment to cover unpaid nonrent fees, well I hope you have a good lawyer if the tenant pursues legal action.

Before the OP (or any other landlord) follows any advice like this, he/she should refer to the state and municipality laws in his/her area.

Originally posted by @Alexander Felice :
Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard:

You need a clause like this in your rental agreement....

"PAYMENTS.  All payments made by Tenant to Landlord after the tenancy commences, no matter how designated by Tenant, will be applied as follows: first, to any outstanding amounts due for damages/repairs, utilities etc.; second, to any outstanding service charges or fees from prior months; third, to any rent outstanding from prior months; fourth, to any service charges or fees due in the current month; and lastly to the current month’s rent."

You have an uncooperative tenant, with attitude, who is proving to be a rule breaker. You need to address this by being swift, firm, fair, and polite. Exercise a little flexibility if the situation warrants. You may be able to turn this around, maybe not. Review the terms of the rental agreement and see if the terms and consequences are clear. If not, edit it. Good luck!

 THIS, SO MANY TIMES! 

you need to set your lease up so that payments that come in apply to previous late fees FIRST. She continues to not pay, then you can reasonably evict, or deduct from security deposit (potentially) at the end of the lease.

If she only has a few months left, call it education expense and get her out when the time comes. 

 Or, you know, you could look up the applicable law, find out that the tenant is in fact absolutely correct and that she owes no fee when the 1st of the month falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, and move on.

Why Davon's property manager has not told him this, I cannot imagine.  

Originally posted by @Randy E. :

Before the OP follows any advice like this, he should refer to the state and municipality laws in his area.

 Always.  The only good legal advice on the internet is, "Don't get legal advice on the internet."

All of these posters chiming in without knowing the specifics of the laws in question are giving the OP really, really bad advice.

Originally posted by @Richard C. :

 Or, you know, you could look up the applicable law, find out that the tenant is in fact absolutely correct and that she owes no fee when the 1st of the month falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, and move on.

Why Davon's property manager has not told him this, I cannot imagine.  

 True.  Or, at least that was always my understanding of the law.

Originally posted by @Ryan Dossey :

You mean she made a partial rent payment.... Sorry I don't accept partial payments. The first $$ you sent me goes to your late fee. You are still in default. If she's challenging you like that you don't want her as a tenant. What am I going to do? Follow the provisions outlined in my lease to remove you. Your partial rent payment has been denied.

 Not legal in many states, regardless of lease language.

Originally posted by @Richard C. :
Originally posted by @Ryan D.:

You mean she made a partial rent payment.... Sorry I don't accept partial payments. The first $$ you sent me goes to your late fee. You are still in default. If she's challenging you like that you don't want her as a tenant. What am I going to do? Follow the provisions outlined in my lease to remove you. Your partial rent payment has been denied.

 Not legal in many states, regardless of lease language.

 I've sat in landlord/tenant court on several occasions and seen a judge/magistrate laugh (or get angry) at various statements in leases.  It's always funny to hear a landlord proclaim "It's in my lease and that makes it so," only to hear the magistrate say, "I say it's not so because it's illegal."  The look on the landlords' faces is priceless.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

You need a clause like this in your rental agreement....

"PAYMENTS.  All payments made by Tenant to Landlord after the tenancy commences, no matter how designated by Tenant, will be applied as follows: first, to any outstanding amounts due for damages/repairs, utilities etc.; second, to any outstanding service charges or fees from prior months; third, to any rent outstanding from prior months; fourth, to any service charges or fees due in the current month; and lastly to the current month’s rent."

You have an uncooperative tenant, with attitude, who is proving to be a rule breaker. You need to address this by being swift, firm, fair, and polite. Exercise a little flexibility if the situation warrants. You may be able to turn this around, maybe not. Review the terms of the rental agreement and see if the terms and consequences are clear. If not, edit it. Good luck!

 Sorry Marcia, I virtually always agree with your posts.  But the "rule breaker" here is the OP, who is applying a late fee in violation of state law.

Make a mental note, and when her lease is up, don't renew it.  If she's making a big stink over something like this, chalk it up to a lesson learned, don't mention a thing, then 30 days, or whatever your law says, before her lease is up, tell her you're not renewing.

That doesn't mean his rental is.... Just his profile. ;) 

Mine says Indiana but I own rentals in Mo. No biggie. :)

Originally posted by @Ryan Dossey :

That doesn't mean his rental is.... Just his profile. ;) 

Mine says Indiana but I own rentals in Mo. No biggie. :)

 Yes, that is true enough.

But my general point, which I realize I have made before and may be being a bit of a broken record about, is that state laws vary and a whole lot of advice on BP is not good, simply because it assumes that the law in the advisee 's state is the same as in the adviser's state.

And Randy is quite right that many landlords appear to believe that their lease language is magic, and always controls, when that is not true at all.

Originally posted by @Richard C. :
Originally posted by @Ryan D.:

That doesn't mean his rental is.... Just his profile. ;) 

Mine says Indiana but I own rentals in Mo. No biggie. :)

 Yes, that is true enough.

But my general point, which I realize I have made before and may be being a bit of a broken record about, is that state laws vary and a whole lot of advice on BP is not good, simply because it assumes that the law in the advisee 's state is the same as in the adviser's state.

And Randy is quite right that many landlords appear to believe that their lease language is magic, and always controls, when that is not true at all.

 You are right. Which is why it's always wise to consult your state code. As with anything on the internet take it with a grain of salt. If there is a potential for legal issues/ramifications contact a local attorney. 

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