How long to wait until you file for eviction??

51 Replies

Fellow Landlords, The tenants of my rental property are currently 12 days late on July’s rent. I have made many many attempts to collect and even suggested that setting up and online pay would make things easier (I did that) and they still haven’t paid. I am getting frustrated because now they won’t answer the phone. I want to be a nice person, but I have bills to pay also, so my question is how many days late should you wait until I serve papers to them for a court hearing? Thank you as always for any advice!!

You can technically begin the process as soon as the payment is late (after any grace period).

In my state (PA), I would begin by posting a 10 day pay or quit notice. If they don't pay or leave, then I would file with the magistrate to evict them.

The magistrate will give them a little time to move and if they don't, I go to the magistrates office and they order a constable to forcibly evict them.

The process a professional landlord would follow is to issue the pay or quit notice to a tenant the day following when rent is due, normally the second of the month. This begins the process and, based on your state landlord tenant regulations, sets the time lines for eviction. Grace periods have nothing to do with rent payment beyond establishing when fees kick in. Rent is due on the 1st, late on the 2nd and the legal process begins.

In most businesses, and especially land lording, nice guys will always finish last and usually with a eviction and often bankruptcy.

Following the legal process to the letter every time a tennat pays late until you ultimately non renew or evict has nothing to do with being nice or not. It is the state code regarding following a set process. You and your tenants need to learn this lesson very quickly since you are now a full 12 days behind in the process. Your loss and the tenants gain for not being professional.

Do not feel too bad as this site is full of hobby landlords that know nothing about operating this business. Your situation is one of the most common topics posted by hobby landlords. The solution is extremely simple, follow your state codes and become professional in dealing with tenants. Remember nice guys finish last and no good deed ever goes unpunished. Prepare to be punished by your tenants.

 Send notice today and prepare to either release your tenant from their lease or evict.

What does your lease say?  What are the state l/t laws?  @Kevin Sobilo has it right.

Here's what we say (and do) in these situations.  Rent is due on 1st, late on 5th, along with late fee.  If not paid by the 10th, we prepare and post proper legal notice to pay or quit.

When we get calls asking why we did such a 'nasty, embarrassing thing', the response is the same:  we are following your lease, and because you have not paid your rent, you have started the clock ticking.  Pay the rent and the clock will stop.

If no rent received in proper time, we go to court and file.  The charges for preparing and posting notice, filing for court date, etc are all part of tenant financial responsibility as per lease.

Be fair but firm and treat EVERYONE equally, regardless of stories/excuses they try to provide.  This is a business, albeit a difficult one because you are dealing with people.  Toughen up or get out of the business--or suffer the emotional roller coaster an experienced tenant can put you through.

Story from my upcoming book "Excuses Tenants Provide":  "I had to use the rent money to fix my car".  Response:  "That's a good thing, because now you'll be able to live in your car after you are evicted for non--payment of rent."

Tenants can say the darndest things, bless their hearts!

If you're reading these responses and haven't received rent drop what you're doing start the eviction process now. I agree with @Marc Winter and @Thomas S. . I'm an novice investor myself but this not something to take lightly. It's going to define how the owner/tenant relationship flourishes or fails

Good luck man  

@Thomas S. , what's with the insults about "hobby landlords"? Everyone had to start somewhere, and everyone had to learn. Stop it! Maybe someone only wants one or two properties and not thousands.

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

The process a professional landlord would follow is to issue the pay or quit notice to a tenant the day following when rent is due, normally the second of the month. This begins the process and, based on your state landlord tenant regulations, sets the time lines for eviction. Grace periods have nothing to do with rent payment beyond establishing when fees kick in. Rent is due on the 1st, late on the 2nd and the legal process begins.

In most businesses, and especially land lording, nice guys will always finish last and usually with a eviction and often bankruptcy.

Following the legal process to the letter every time a tennat pays late until you ultimately non renew or evict has nothing to do with being nice or not. It is the state code regarding following a set process. You and your tenants need to learn this lesson very quickly since you are now a full 12 days behind in the process. Your loss and the tenants gain for not being professional.

Do not feel too bad as this site is full of hobby landlords that know nothing about operating this business. Your situation is one of the most common topics posted by hobby landlords. The solution is extremely simple, follow your state codes and become professional in dealing with tenants. Remember nice guys finish last and no good deed ever goes unpunished. Prepare to be punished by your tenants.

 Send notice today and prepare to either release your tenant from their lease or evict.

 Nothing to add after this. You should have started the eviction process 11 days ago (depending on your state laws).

Thanks for great guidance @Marc Winter Question - Why would you not post the 'pay or quit notice' on the 2nd as Thomas S. indicates? Thanks, Terrell

@Terrell Garren --fair question, and we used to do that all the time.  However, we found that the majority of owners of property we manage insisted we wait a few extra days.  Their thinking was the tenant is paying late fee, PLUS a doc prep/posting fee, and, well, they felt 'bad'.  (Pardon me while I cough).

Although I personally do not agree with that thinking, as brokers, we have a fiduciary responsibility to follow their instruction (as long as they are legal) so we had to change policy across the board.

@Thomas S. has a valid point, about filing NTQ on the 2nd of the month, but it just didn't work for us with the majority of our management clients wanting to give tenants a 'grace' period'.

@Austin Purnell once they stop answering the phone or break promises, the notice to vacate goes on the door. Usually that generates a frantic call and at that point I only accept cash. I also make it clear that ignoring me will not be tolerated. I don't accept being ignored or lied to, both are non-negotiable. I tell people that multiple times during lease signing.

Personally I would never let it get to 12 days. Rent is due on the first and I have a grace period to the 5th. If they are going to be late, they need to make payment arrangements before the 5th and there is a late fee. If no arrangements are made, I send a text on the 5th saying to either pay today or contact me. If they ignore me I proceed to eviction starting with the notice to vacate.

My property management company (that I use) files for eviction on the same day every month (around the 15th). Prior to this a 5 day notice is served if rent was not received by the 5th.

Process goes like this: rent due on 1. Grace period into 5th. After this it’s late. They attempt to contact tenant, usually between 6-8. Late fee is 10 percent of rent.

If after this they still don’t have it, 5 day notice. After that file for eviction. Once eviction is filed, the only way for the tenant to stop it is to pay the rent, late fee and 180 dollar court filing fee.

To people making 40-50k a year or sometimes less that is a pain. Eviction takes 3-4 weeks from the filing period.

Originally posted by @Ray Harrell :

@Thomas S. , what's with the insults about "hobby landlords"? Everyone had to start somewhere, and everyone had to learn. Stop it! Maybe someone only wants one or two properties and not thousands.

Thomas is a small operator and is hardly some large business owner. His hobby landlord comments are meant to demean people. That being said he does have some good points about how to take emotion out and run rentals like a business. It is not bad to ask yourself, is this a hobby or a charity or a business? For me it is a business which means have firm policies and stick to them. I wouldn't file eviction on the second of a month, but I also would never wait until the 12th. Ignoring my calls gets a letter on the door telling them to get out.

Thanks to everyone for advice. You are right, no good deed goes unpunished. Starting the process now to evict them, hopefully it puts a fire under their butt to pay. It’s the only rental property I own. And from now on I will post notice to pay or quit asap. Thanks all.

Originally posted by @Austin Purnell :

Thanks to everyone for advice. You are right, no good deed goes unpunished. Starting the process now to evict them, hopefully it puts a fire under their butt to pay. It’s the only rental property I own. And from now on I will post notice to pay or quit asap. Thanks all.

Don't worry if they just leave. I have learned it is better to have a bad tenant leave and have vacancy then to keep fighting to get rent every month. Once a tenant pays late once, it will always happen again. Letting people pay late isn't a good deed. It teaches them bad behavior and ultimately they will get evicted by you or some other landlord in the future. It is like dealing with a child. Enforcing rules is best for a child. Good parents don't let their kids do whatever they want.

Thanks @Joe Splitrock .. yea I have owned this property for two years and am on my second tenant. Unfortunately yes it seems to be like parenting lol.. If they just pack up and leave I would be happy because at the price point I can rent it out quite quickly again, but will be more thorough on my screening process this time. I require first and last month up front, so if they leave I've got the "last" month covered. I just want a good tenant!

@Austin Purnell ,

If they don't pay within the grace period (7-days),  then I post the 5-day pay or quit notice on the 8th.     

It's literately just posting it to their door, and taking a picture... that way if they still don't pay within 5-days, you can start the eviction process.   It shows you aren't messing around.      Another thing I tell people, is the 5-day pay or quit is just part of the formality, and that we can always drop it, it's not a big deal once paid up... but it opens their eyes up to the fact not paying has consequences.

If they just leave, honestly that'd be your best option.. b/c they are gone, you didn't have to pay them to leave with a cash for keys, and you get possession of your house quicker! 

Ps.  get rid of being nice or mean, or anything like that... be professional, fix stuff ASAP, be respectful and have great communication, and do exactly what the contract states you need to do...  tenants aren't you friends..  "Nice" to them is fixing problems ASAP and making them feel valued and respected!   

Thank you @Linda D. .. I have been professional and am quick to repair issues, like a new water pump within 48 hours of the issue arising. The 5-day pay or quit notice is going to be posted soon now, but I agree I'd rather have them leave and be done with it. What advice do you have on screening applicants? I ask for first and last month rent and verify employment. Do you do background check and credit check also?

@Austin Purnell ,

It sounds like you're a great landlord.. keep it up! 

We do low income, so we only do background, since pretty much no one has any credit.  As far as screening goes---  make sure you do the 3x income/rent,  job stability is HUGE for us-- income is what's going to pay rent!   We love  dual income earners too! 

Another thing, and check your state laws if it's allowed or not.. but try offering rent discounted if paid by the first, and make the discount decent ... no one cares about $5, but if it's $50 or $75-- they will!   Be very clear and upfront with the discount... I just did one this week, $625 if paid by the first.. $700 2-7th, and then $725 if ever late.   Do we technically get less than we can overall... yeah.. we could be getting more money.. but it's very stress free IMO-- 99% of tenants pay by the first!     It's a win/win because it allows the tenant to have the choice to pay the lowest!

@Linda D. Thank you! And what is exactly "3x income/rent"? (Sorry I'm unfamiliar with it). And thanks for the tip about discount, that sounds enticing to the tenant for sure, even though they should just pay on time the full amount LOL.. but yes I understand it may be worth it to avoid headaches like I am in now. 

@Austin Purnell ,

Tenants are required to have 3x income/rent.. so if the house is $1K, they must make at least $3K per month... so  no more than 33% of their money should go to pay for rent.     The higher the ratio the better, as it frees us more money!    We prefer seeing it be around 4-7x rent, but 3x is our minimum.

Awesome thank you for the explanation @Linda D. !

You don't wait.  What follows is not intended as legal advice but is for informational purposes only.  Most states have a requirement of a notice and opportunity to cure of some form or fashion. That is their "grace period".  I don't know how the laws work in the state you are in but I know this. Tenants do not tend to pay once they have fallen behind and stay behind without a little "help".  I would urge you to treat your rentals as you imagine a large conglomerate would treat them. That is , there are no stories, or long discussions or explanations about why rent is not paid.  its not paid timely, the appropriate (check your state laws) notice goes.  After the time for cure (assuming there is one) has elapsed.  One of three things will happen. 1. They will pay promptly to end it.  2. They will leave.  3.   They will neither pay promptly nor leave.  Whichever of the three options above, you are better off having that issue come to a head sooner rather than later IMHO.

In what forms or apps or websites do most use to accept rent in this age of new tech? Because doing it by mail seems to be more of a headache and going to collect in cash is not the safest way. So any good methods anyone?

If they're in breach of the lease and not working with you, assuming you're willing to work with them, then file now. I say this without knowing the laws in Maryland, but remember your're running a business. You don't make investments or start a business to lose money. Don't forget to have a heart, but more importantly don't let anyone take advantage of you. This kind of activity becomes habitual very quickly. Who know, you might not even have to actually evict them. Just the threat of it might get them to pay up. It's worked for me on more than one occasion. There is not set rule on how long you should wait, but the tenants need to understand that the lease is a you scratch my back (pay rent) and I scratch you back (provide you with a roof). That should never be one sided.

And don't forget, from a landlords perspective eviction should't be evil. It's a necessary tool to move your business and investment into the future in a healthy way and should be embraced when needed. Using the tool is big picture thinking and you'll be better off for it.

Originally posted by @Corey Gee :

In what forms or apps or websites do most use to accept rent in this age of new tech? Because doing it by mail seems to be more of a headache and going to collect in cash is not the safest way. So any good methods anyone?

I personally have been using Cozy.co for my rent payments.  I'll probably have to move on as I move up from the 2 rentals I currently have.  It's limited in that it only allows for payments via CC (with a fee) or by connecting your bank account.  I believe tenants also have the option to have their payment history reported to one of the credit bureaus too.

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here