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late rent payments

How to handle late rent payments (plus the docs you’ll need)

We surveyed thousands of landlords, and they told us that late rent is their #1 headache. We know that when rent doesn’t come in on time, you’re left wondering how to deal. In this article, we’re excited to share our tips for handling late rent—plus, how to avoid it in the future.

Communicate (and keep good records)

First, you should communicate before rent is even due by reminding your tenants about their upcoming rent payment. If it’s the first month of your lease, then you should also provide detailed instructions for how they can pay.

If rent is late, or the payment doesn’t clear, contact your tenant right away. Communicate what the issue is, so your tenant knows to take immediate action.

You can also send a Bad Check Notice to let your tenant know the payment didn’t clear.

We also recommend that you communicate in writing so that you have a record of the correspondence. In the case that your tenant repeatedly pays late, you’ll want documentation to prove it.

Charge a late fee

We highly recommend including a late fee in your lease. Even if you never need to use your late fee, having it, as a rule, will show your tenants that if they are late, there will be a financial consequence.

As soon as the late fee applies, you should charge it. This shows your tenants that if you have a rule, you stick to it. You can benefit from automatic late fees if you allow tenants to pay rent online.

Keep in mind that some states have a legal grace period, which means that you have to wait a certain amount of days before you actually charge your late fee. Even if it’s not the law, most landlords choose to give tenants a 5-day grace period to allow them time to pay.

Late rent notice

As soon as rent is late, you can also send a more official Late Rent Notice. This can be especially helpful in the case that you need to move forward with an eviction. If your tenant continues to pay rent late, you may want to consider sending a more serious Eviction Notice, which notifies your tenant that you expect them to resolve the issue at hand or move out by a certain date.

The eviction process varies greatly based on the location of your property. Typically, the steps include:

  • Go to your local court and file for an eviction
  • You and your tenant will receive a Notice of Hearing, which tells you when and where your court date is
  • You’ll attend the court hearing
  • If you win the eviction case, the court will send a sheriff to provide a Writ of Possession (or Writ of Restitution), which tells your tenant he or she needs to leave the property by a particular date. It typically provides the tenant 8 days to leave.

If you are considering evicting a tenant, it is highly recommended that you talk to a lawyer.

Next steps

While this article discussed how to handle late rent, there are also several ways to avoid past-due payments in the future:

  • Improve your tenant screening process
    • Request that all potential tenants fill out an online rental application and authorize screening reports (credit, background, and eviction)
  • Make it convenient for your tenants to pay
    • Allow tenants to pay rent online
    • Provide instructions on how to pay
    • Write in your lease how you expect rent to be paid
  • Provide rent reminders
    • This is automatic if you collect rent online

If you’re looking for an easy way to find and screen tenants, collect rent, and manage maintenance, check out Avail today.


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