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

80 Replies

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :
Then again, when a tenant resorts to yelling at their landlord, they are crossing the line too, IMHO.

 In most cases, I agree a tenant has crossed the line when they resort to yelling at the landlord.  On the other hand, I can imagine the conversation going this way ...

Tenant: "Hi Landlord, here is the rent for the month."

Landlord: "Today is the 3rd.  Your rent is late."

Tenant: "The 1st was on Saturday.  Today is the first business day after then."

Landlord: "I don't care.  Rent is due on the 1st, no exceptions.  Your rent is late.  You now owe a $50 late fee."

Tenant: "You're wrong.  My rent is not late."

Landlord: "Do you wish to pay now?"

Tenant:  "I'm not paying a late fee, because my. rent. was. not. late."

Landlord: "If you don't pay the late fee this month, another late fee will accrue next month."

Tenant: "Are you stupid?  I told you my rent is not late."

Landlord: Our lease clearly states that rent is due on the first, and if not paid by then the tenant owes a $50 late fee.  You owe $50.  If you refuse to pay we will evict you and sue you in court for all money you owe."

Tenant: yelling starts here.

At that point, I might understand the tenant's frustration.

I realize the conversation might not have happened exactly that way, but the landlord (or PM) was very very wrong.  The tenant is owed a sincere apology.  Not an apology that includes "...you, the tenant, should not yell at me."  Rather, an apology that begins and ends with "I, the landlord/PM, made a mistake when I said your rent was paid late.  You, the tenant, did absolutely nothing wrong and I hope you can forgive me for taking a hard line with you when you had done nothing wrong."

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :
Originally posted by @Richard C.:
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.

You're right. Seems the tenant had until the next business day to pay her rent, as per CA law. It wouldn't always be a 3-day grace period, as she stated. Personally, I believe if you're going to charge a late fee, at least establish some sort of grace period to take into account weekends, holidays, and slow mail. Ours is a 5-day grace period. The landlord should not have applied the late fee at the point he did. Then again, when a tenant resorts to yelling at their landlord, they are crossing the line too, IMHO.

It's funny to me how most every one here rallied to support a LL and PM that were being unreasonable and who were wrong. Train that tenant with attitude was the basic response. An inexperienced and uninformed  LL and PM were wrong about collecting rent and then proceeded to insist on a late fee which was not due.  LLs are in positions of power and authority.  Most people when confronted by people who are in the wrong AND who have power over their lives will push back. IMO the LL and PM now have some make up good will to attend to.

Originally posted by K.marie P.:
Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard:

You're right. Seems the tenant had until the next business day to pay her rent, as per CA law. It wouldn't always be a 3-day grace period, as she stated. Personally, I believe if you're going to charge a late fee, at least establish some sort of grace period to take into account weekends, holidays, and slow mail. Ours is a 5-day grace period. The landlord should not have applied the late fee at the point he did. Then again, when a tenant resorts to yelling at their landlord, they are crossing the line too, IMHO.

It's funny to me how most every one here rallied to support a LL and PM that were being unreasonable and who were wrong. Train that tenant with attitude was the basic response. An inexperienced and uninformed  LL and PM were wrong about collecting rent and then proceeded to insist on a late fee which was not due.  LLs are in positions of power and authority.  Most people when confronted by people who are in the wrong AND who have power over their lives will push back. IMO the LL and PM now have some make up good will to attend to.

Yep. The landlord and property manager would do well to make amends for their mistake. Hopefully all parties involved will rise to the occasion and show good will to one another. People are fallible and may say things they regret later. It's like a chess game, move and counter move. There seems to be room for improvement on both sides.

Originally posted by @Randy E. :
Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard:
Then again, when a tenant resorts to yelling at their landlord, they are crossing the line too, IMHO.

 In most cases, I agree a tenant has crossed the line when they resort to yelling at the landlord.  On the other hand, I can imagine the conversation going this way ...

Tenant: "Hi Landlord, here is the rent for the month."

Landlord: "Today is the 3rd.  Your rent is late."

Tenant: "The 1st was on Saturday.  Today is the first business day after then."

Landlord: "I don't care.  Rent is due on the 1st, no exceptions.  Your rent is late.  You now owe a $50 late fee."

Tenant: "You're wrong.  My rent is not late."

Landlord: "Do you wish to pay now?"

Tenant:  "I'm not paying a late fee, because my. rent. was. not. late."

Landlord: "If you don't pay the late fee this month, another late fee will accrue next month."

Tenant: "Are you stupid?  I told you my rent is not late."

Landlord: Our lease clearly states that rent is due on the first, and if not paid by then the tenant owes a $50 late fee.  You owe $50.  If you refuse to pay we will evict you and sue you in court for all money you owe."

Tenant: yelling starts here.

At that point, I might understand the tenant's frustration.

I realize the conversation might not have happened exactly that way, but the landlord (or PM) was very very wrong.  The tenant is owed a sincere apology.  Not an apology that includes "...you, the tenant, should not yell at me."  Rather, an apology that begins and ends with "I, the landlord/PM, made a mistake when I said your rent was paid late.  You, the tenant, did absolutely nothing wrong and I hope you can forgive me for taking a hard line with you when you had done nothing wrong."

From the subsequent posts from the OP (and his PM) is seems they understand their mistake and are doing what they can to correct it. No need to speculate how the conversation went and add fuel to the fire of this thread. Seems both parties overreacted. Hopefully both parties can sort this out and save the relationship. In any case, I don't think one party yelling at another is ever productive.

Originally posted by @Davon Lowery :

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

Ahhh the joys of landlording...

 I wouldn't bother with late fees personally, if I'm going to get run around by late rents, I'm not wasting my time for a dead and dying relationship with the tenant. The one visit will be a 3 day notice to pay the rent in full or quit the property.

Unless  we've taken pity on a tenant situation, which does happen, but in general; I do not play games.

I was going to post this a few days ago, but had trouble with the site, so here it goes:

  1. Thanks for being open and a good sport.  You and you property manager have had a good attitude with all of the advice being given.  You guys were not even defensive about it.
  2. Legal Resources.  I would suggest the NOLO Landlord guide for your state.  Learn it backwards, forwards, then relearn it again.  There are many statutes and case law to go over.  I have obtained many (LEGAL) leases and forms from NOLO. In that lease, it accounts what happens if the 1st is on a holiday or weekend.
  3. Attitude.  I am not sure of what approach you took with the tenant....a diplomatic/problem solver tone is always best.
  4. Apology.  We all make mistakes.  Give a sincere apology to your tenant.
  5. Consider your legal environment.  CA is notoriously a tenant friendly state.  Is that a correct assumption? How long does it take you to evict?  Is an attorney required?  If it takes a long time to evict and/or an attorney is required, you may want tune up those diplomatic skills.  A pissed off tenant may cost you months of economic vacancy if you're not careful.
  6. Please keep us updated!
Originally posted by @Belinda Marsaw :

Hi! I am the property manager that all of you are talking about. 

Thanks for the ridicule :) 

P.S. I offer my sincerest thanks to those of you who use Bigger Pockets to educate, empower and overall help others who may be new to REI. 

Welcome to BP.

How has the tenant been otherwise?  It sounds like she is owed an apology, because she was correct.  If she has been a good tenant otherwise, you might think about a renewal that makes the due date the 5th and a discount for the 1st or earlier.

If she hasn't been a good tenant, don't use this incident as grounds but don't renew her lease.  Even in this case an apology will help increase the chances of a mutual agreed departure from the property.

Do you have a lawyer specializing in landlord/tenant that you can refer your landlords to if things move into the eviction process?  You also may want to have your leases/addendums reviewed.

I allow a 3 day Grace period to avoid this problem.  That being said I have a tenant that sometimes pays after the 3rd and I don't charge her the late fee.  Why???  She does pay every single month, keeps my property clean, mows the lawn, only has legitimate complaints, and is a no drama tenant.  I value this kind tenant over a late fee. 

Originally posted by @Heidi M. :

I allow a 3 day Grace period to avoid this problem.  That being said I have a tenant that sometimes pays after the 3rd and I don't charge her the late fee.  Why???  She does pay every single month, keeps my property clean, mows the lawn, only has legitimate complaints, and is a no drama tenant.  I value this kind tenant over a late fee. 

And there you have it.  The real reason for give and take on this issue. Late fees will not make up for the bad will or anxiety created.  Or a month of vacancy and turnover if you lose the tenant.  

Low drama tenants that actually take care of property (as opposed to just not wreck it) are appreciated and not that common, hence the give and take.  There's a big difference between a tenant that sometimes pays past the 3rd and one that can't/won't pay on time.  You recognize the difference after awhile.  

Late fees are not the best training tool anyway.  Otherwise you wouldn't have tenants consistently paying late fees.  Ask the credit card companies.  Late fees are just another annoyance for those don't manage money well and/or for low income people.  They are used to it.  If a LL really values receiving the rent on time then you go right to enforcement of lease terms with quit or pay notices.  Not calls or reminders to pay no time, not late fees.