Late rent payments can be a burden for many landlords. It can be the start of a cycle that is difficult to break, especially if the late payer is allowed to continue. Here are five strategies that can help you put an end to habitually late payers.
Solution #1: Charge a penalty. When you make it painful to pay late, your tenants may begin to comply with the rules. Your form of lease agreement should state what day the rent is due, when it is considered late, and the amount of the penalty. You can elect to charge a flat fee for a late payment, or you may prefer to charge a daily fee until the rent is paid. Some states limit the amount you can charge.
Solution #2: Remind habitually late payers early. Some tenants may just not be able to remember the exact date the rent is due. Begin with a friendly written reminder 10 days before the rent is due.
The day the rent is due, you can call your tenants to remind them or provide a written notice. This is a great time to remind them that you do have a late payment penalty.
Solution #3: Stand your ground. Once you begin cutting a tenant some slack with their due date, it can quickly snowball. If one of your tenants is experiencing a financial or personal problem, let them know that you will only allow one late payment and that any future late payments will incur the late payment penalty.
It is also important to avoid giving one tenant preferential treatment. If your other tenants learn that you are allowing someone to turn in their rent 15 days late, they may start following suit.
Solution #4: Begin reporting late payments to a credit bureau. Reporting late payments turns up the heat on late payers. Most tenants will not appreciate a black mark on their credit report and will do their best to avoid the problem in the future. This may not work with all tenants, especially if they have developed a pattern of abusing your lease agreement. In this case, our last solution will probably be your best course of action.
Solution #5: Serve a notice to pay rent or quit. When a tenant sees an official notice to either provide their rent payment or vacate the premises, this lets them know two things. First, you actually mean business and will not accept their current behavior. Second, that they may lose their apartment if they do not begin paying their rent on time. Serving this type of notice is serious, and should always be your last resort.
Before you attempt to evict a tenant, document their late payments to protect yourself from the backlash of a claim from your tenants. Many people will fight an eviction notice, and this documentation will go a long way in proving your case.
The best way to avoid habitually late payments is to clearly state in your lease agreement what you consider to be late payment and what actions you will take if the agreement is broken. This can stop problems before they start.