Rent is almost late...

20 Replies

Hi BP nation.

I only have 1 property and I am relatively new to landlording. My tenants have sent checks on time every month. Usually arriving no later than the 28th each month.

It's the 2nd and the mail man just came with no check.

I wanted to ask for some advice as I've never been in this situation.

Should I just text them? Send them an email? I'm thinking text will be the easiest but not entirely sure what to say.

Any help great appreciated

Presuming you rent is due on the first it is not almost late.  IT IS LATE. It may not be late enough to collect a late fee of file for eviction but it is still late. 

I would send a very nicely written note saying how much you appreciated their getting the rent out on time so far. The remind them the rent is due on the first. You may choose to soften it more by saying you want to make sure nothing is wrong.

Some people would take a little bit colder and more formal approach. That might be safer legally so all tenants are treated the same.

You can call, write,  text or email. I couldn't tell you which is best and my guess is it would depend on the tenant.

Thank you for your feedback, Ned.

Exactly right when I said "almost" I meant not late enough to charge a fee, but still late.

Thanks for your help

I was in the same position last month.  What I did was find a nice template from Google on Late Rent Notice.  My plan was to go to the door of the late payer and tape this to their front door.  It seems awkward, especially to a new landlord, but if you want to be respected, you have to remember you're not friends with your residents, this is a business and legal rules are in place to ensure business flows according to the mutually agreed upon contract.  

I was also semi flying by the seat of my pants when this came up and realized I had no clue to what I would do.  This is why i created this template and have a detailed mapped structure of what I will do when a tenant is late paying rent.  I suggest coming up with a system you like as well.  Takes the angst out of it if a resident pays late.

Here is what the body of my letter looks like, hope this helps!

Dear xxxx:

This is a reminder your rent on the referenced property has not been received as of the date above and is past due. If this was an oversight, please send your total payment immediately in order to avoid further action.

As your lease states, your rent must be received in our possession by the rent payment due date of the 5th of each month before 5:00 PM in order to be on time.

The following is an itemization of the total amount due:

Unpaid Rent $475.00

Late Charges $47.50

TOTAL $522.50

We highly value your tenancy and hope to gain your cooperation in paying your rent by the 5th of each month. Please call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you have any questions. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter in paying your rent and late fee ASAP.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.



Thanks, Max

I have set up systems for most everything else. This was one I overlooked.

I really appreciate you sending the template

You didn't say how many months they have paid on time. If this is their second month, it's a way different story than if it is their 6th month. Contact them, and let them know it hasn't arrived yet, and that since they have always paid on time, you wanted to make sure everything was ok. Maybe she put it into her purse and forgot to mail it. Maybe they both lost their jobs and don't know how to tell you. See what they say. 

You should tape that letter enclosed in an envelope with the tenant's name and personal & confidential underneath, which is excellent @Max James .

In your jurisdiction change the verbiage to indicate that if they pay you before the 5th the late fee will not apply. If they don't pay by the 5th write a harsher one stating the date you will pursue and eviction and tape that to the door with no envelope. 

Hmm, that's not a bad idea to send that letter on the 1st of the month, if the late fee isn't instituted till the 5th.  My thought was to send that letter on the 5th of the month at 5:01 PM.  So send a warning letter, then after the 5th, a harsher letter with the late fee's and also how you plan to evict if the late fee and rent isn't collected by certain date.

All of this will hopefully be avoidable once I get all of my residents on Cozy payments.  Free website which lets you setup reoccurring payments from resident to landlord.  This will be a mandatory requirement in my future leases.

@Max James , you're absolutely right. All tenants should be treated the same way. TN has a 5 day grace period before a late fee can be charged. I would contact them now that the rent is late, before the grace period ends because they have always paid, not only on time, but early. This is out of character for these tenants. Like @JR T. said, let them know that the late fee won't apply if they pay by the 5th. 

This isn't a bad idea to implement with any late payment. It's due the 1st, contact them on the 2nd to let them know that after the 5th there will be a 10% late fee added to their past due balance, and that you will not accept a partial payment. 14 Day Pay or Quit notice on the 6th. Day 15, start eviction proceedings. 

I use send a soft reminder like.  I haven't received your check in the mail and just wanted to make sure it didn't get lost in he mail.  ... I send a text.  It could be that one thought the other paid it.  If you have a good paying tenant give them the benefit and just send th e friendly reminder.

This happens to me occasionally; like now ;) I have 4 tenants who can be considered "late". One has an agreement to pay twice a month according to her pay schedule. The others usually pay on the 1st. They all know there will be a late fee on the 4th, and several have paid it before with no problem. My lease spells it out clearly.

A wise landlord friend told me that if it's not a habit for them to be late, just let it go and be happy when all the rents are in by the 4th (with that one exception). In other words, pick your battles. I don't need more aggravation by chasing tenants who I know will pay by the 4th. If they are a day beyond that, it's an extra $50 each.

Since this seems to be an isolated incident, and the "check is in the mail", you can just text them and remind them the late fee will be due if the check doesn't show up by tomorrow.

What does your lease say about late fees? And by the way, taking checks will always involve this waiting game. Have you considered online payments or having the tenants deposit directly into your business account? I've never taken a check from a tenant and never will. Auto-debit, or they can put the money in the bank directly. Avoid the regular mail.

Had to do this today, 6 months in tenancy first late. Sent the gentle reminder similar to @Max James above. Tenant paid instantly via wire transfer, although I can't personally relate sometimes things really do slip through the cracks. Don't wait, send it out on the 2nd of the month, it can be phrased nicely but you need to set and enforce standards. Sometimes 'give them an inch, they take a mile' is an appropriate frame of mind.

You have responsibilities and time frames if for instance the water heater goes out, the tenant has responsibilities and paying on time, every time is job 1.

     Checks actually do get lost or delayed in the mail. They may have sent it as usual. It sounds like you have great tenants. I have had very few who pay before the first of the month. Taping a notice to their door may cause bad feelings. Why risk alienating a good tenant? Mail a letter if you wish but a simple phone call may be all that is needed. I often call on the premise that I am worried about them, that I hope everything is alright because this is so unusual. If the check was not mailed due to an oversight this almost always corrects it. If it was delayed in the mail, I suggest they may want to stop the check (for their protection, of course) but I am willing to wait a few days to see what happens. If the check arrives late I do charge the late fees (if it was due to a post office error I often waive the late fee the first time) but the softer approach often has my tenants thanking me for my concern while I collect the late fee. I have had some tenants ask for electronic payment options after a rent check was delayed by mail--this is much easier for me to manage.

     If I feel that the tenant has been dishonest or the rent is late again I simply mail regular notice to quit for non payment of rent. Most of my tenants stay multiple years. I have several who have rented from me for more than 5 years and and two who have stated they don't wish to ever move again. Both of those tenants have had a rent payment delayed a couple times in the 5+ years of their tenancy--I will be happy to have them stay as long as they would like.

Simple. Pick up the phone and call them or text them, whichever is their preference. Do as @Mindy Jensen says... "Let them know it hasn't arrived yet, and that since they have always paid on time, you wanted to make sure everything was okay." Since you only have one rental unit, you can approach it however you want.... in fairness to all of your tenants. :-)

Tenants have been mailing checks to our P.O.Box for twenty years. The most likely scenario is that they put it in the mail prior to the first or on the first, but because the first landed on a Sunday it is delayed a day or two. I wouldn't be sweating this until you see if it arrives in Tuesday's mail. Then, pick up the phone. Silly to mail a letter and delay your communication.

Posting a "Pay or Quit" notice on the door would cover you legally, but it would also be the coldest approach, negatively impacting your relationship. I wouldn't do it unless I couldn't reach the tenant any other way and they were past the grace period for paying rent without a late fee.

Next time you talk with them, share with them the mantra "Don't be late, mail by the 28th!" Works well for most months! Or if you want it by the 28th, let them know to mail it by the 26th.

Thank you everyone for all of the awesome feedback and advice!

I've looked into online payment methods but for one rental it didn't make sense with all the fees. Once I have a couple under my belt I will look into it.

Since they have been really good tenants I will just text them and show concern since this is out of character for them-like a couple of you mentioned.

@Luka Milicevic , there are several online payment methods that charge minimal fees. I use I believe there is a $3 fee per use. I am not sure because I haven't been on the site for quite a while (over a year) and my tenants pay the fee. I believe you can have the landlord pay the fee, the tenant pay the fee, or split the fee between you. 

what does your lease say, and what date is the rent actually late? The day previous to that date, just text a friendly reminder. This is where it gets interesting. If you get excuses instead of your scratch,,follow your states non payment eviction laws to a t. Don't give them slack because they will be fit from it. 

I had a tenant who sent me an online banking check each month.  When I didn't receive it, usually on the 2nd or 3rd, I let them know.  They immediately sent me the online payment receipt showing they had actually scheduled payment to be sent a week earlier.  When it didn't arrive by the 5th, they immediately agreed to mail me a personal check with the understanding that I'd take the first one that arrived and send the other back.  I did not charge them the late fee as it was clear they scheduled payment a week before.  The personal check arrived 2 days later.   A neighbor brought over the online bank check about 2 weeks later, saying it was in his hold mail delivery.  I'm glad they had the online bill scheduling to show me as I likely wouldn't have believed them otherwise, but I also know that good tenants will honor their responsibility to pay like these guys did.  

This is but one reason why there's no such thing as "The check is in the mail" with my units. Tenant either deposits directly into my local bank account (I provide deposit slips), sets up automatic payments (I use Cozy, it's free) through their bank ACH, or uses a commercial third-party setup (I use Erentpayment, costs $3 and the tenant pays the $3). No cash, no checks in the mail, no "he said-she said". I have the payment method written into the lease as to how we will accept payment. 

Yes, it makes sense, even for one unit. You don't have to look for the mailman, the tenant doesn't have to look for a stamp, it can't get lost, and you don't have to worry about tenants floating bad checks. Since you are in TN like me, you should have the 10% penalty clause in your lease (I use a flat $50 charge, but I rent in the $600 range) after 5 business days. 

Thanks for the tip. When I looked into online methods of payment they all came with high fees. I guess I didn't look hard enough. I wasn't a big fan of receiving checks for the exact reasons you mentioned. 

I will definitely look into the suggestions provided. I appreciate your comment!