Important Points to Remember
1. Act quickly and consistently. Enforcing the rules will let tenants know you’re serious and will help prevent late tenants from getting behind even further on their payments. You may have worked out a deal with them once or twice, but what if the payments spill over into next month? It’s better not to have to worry about continual bargaining for the money they promised to give you.
2. Try not to accept partial payment of late rent and NEVER accept even one cent if you think the case may go to court. In many places, accepting partial payment will void any legal actions you have previously taken, including Pay or Quit notices, and it will start the process of eviction over again (if you have already started it).
3. Document everything in writing. If you and the tenant reach an agreement, have them sign a document specifying the compromise and give them a copy.
4. If there were any co-signors on the lease (like parents of students), they should be held responsible and named in all lawsuits and on all legal papers.
5. Follow the exact rules of your state and city when going through the eviction process. Failure to do so could result in delays or end the eviction process entirely while the tenant continues to not pay you.
Q: How do I handle bounced checks?
A: Your lease should also have a section specifying your reaction to this. Most landlords consider a bounced check to constitute late rent and charge late fees accordingly. Depending on the state, you may be able to charge an additional fee for the very fact it bounced. Notify the tenant immediately if their check bounces, and if they don’t rectify the situation right away, then start the steps above.
Q: What if the tenant decides to leave the unit for good without warning?
A: Unless there is a provision in the lease allowing them to break it (for example, if the tenant gives 30 days notice that he wants to move then he can get out of the lease), then they are still legally liable for any and all past-due payments and future rent payments until the landlord decides to rent to someone else. In this case, you’ll most definitely want to get an experienced lawyer on your side. You may also be able to sue for money to cover the costs of advertising for a new tenant and for cleaning/repairing the unit.
Q: Does landlord insurance help out in situations of eviction?
A: Some policies have add-on features like “rent guarantee” or will cover legal expenses should you take a tenant to court. Talk to your insurance agent to see if this is available.