Hmmm… you are probably wondering… what is this a trick question? Well, that could be a correct assumption if your only action is to post a “notice to quit” and head to court. But is that the only action you should be taking when the rent is late?
Not a chance!
Based on my experiences, once a tenant has missed their rent payment, an entire repertoire of actions must be taken to ensure your tenants know you are serious. And, in addition to using late rents as a “training the tenant” opportunity you can many times get the tenant caught up on their rent as well.
The key though is that once your tenant is late you must spring into action and do everything you can to protect both your rental income and your property.
And… here is why!
For many tenants, once they start that long slow slide of late rents it is extremely difficult for them to get caught up. But, and every tenant knows this, once they get behind they know they will not get caught up and they know they are on their way out. It is just a matter of time. And, once they come to that realization they start to care less and less about YOUR property and they start to make preparations to move out.
As a landlord, don’t you think it would be a good thing to know what your tenant is up to during this time period? Especially if you own property in a location where it can take months and months to get through the actual eviction process?
As a responsible landlord what do you do?
Below are my step-by-step recommendations for managing this process from start to finish.
How You Should Proceed when the Rent is Late
1. On the day following the rent due date take whatever action is required in your municipality to start the eviction process. If that means posting a “notice to quit” or heading off to Rent Court, or both… do it! Remember that you are accomplishing two things here… a. starting the process to evict if the tenant doesn’t pay the rent as due, and b. sending a message to the tenant that you mean business and you consider their missing the rent a very serious situation.
2. Start the Safe and Clean Inspection process. Once the tenant’s rent is late you need to get into your property to ensure the following: a. that the tenant is still there, b. that they are not destroying your property, and c. conveying to the tenant that you are now paying very close attention to their actions.
3. Conduct the formal inspection process. Take pictures. Document everything. In addition to the deficiencies you SHOULD find that are the tenants responsibility to correct, make sure that you identify those deficiencies that you need to correct. The last thing you want is a tenant who heads to court for some property issue while you are trying get your rent from them.
4. Follow-up the initial inspection by correcting those deficiencies that are your responsibility and rescheduling another inspection to ensure the tenant has corrected theirs’. Continue the inspection process as often as needed until the tenant is caught up with their rent or you have evicted them.
5. If you make any arrangements with the tenant to get caught up on their late rent be sure to document everything, but don’t stop the inspection process.
The entire concept behind this process is to let the tenant know that when their rent is late they have placed themselves onto your radar screen and they will stay there until their rent is paid. While this process takes time and effort on your part, it helps to both protect you and your property and is a great way to ensure the tenant is not destroying your property.