How to Deal with Late or Missing Rent as a Landlord

By Kailey Walters on May 8, 2020

As a landlord, you’ve probably dealt with your fair share of late or missing rent from tenants. However, due to the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic, you may be seeing a lot more of these cases lately — especially if your tenants have become unemployed. With many people hurting financially, physically, and emotionally during this time, you may be wondering how to best handle the situation. Rest assured, there are a few ways you can gracefully deal with late or missing rent so that you can simultaneously show compassion for your tenants and manage to pay your own bills.

Double-check your records.

While this may seem unnecessary, it’s always better to be safe than sorry — you don’t want to wrongly accuse your tenant of being late or missing their payment. As a result, you should take care to double-check your lease documents and payment records to really be sure that the tenant in question didn’t pay before you make any moves to contact them about it.

Hear out your tenants.

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that your tenants are human beings. If you notice that they’ve been missing payments, or if they contact you and admit that they’ve recently lost their job and will be struggling to pay rent on time, you should first take the time to listen to them. Hear out what they have to say about their new and unexpected unemployment, their financial situation, and how they’re feeling. Maybe they have a family to support and don’t know what to do. Maybe they’re completely on their own and have no one else to turn to for help. Most definitely, they have a ton of other concerns, financial and otherwise, burdening them — like how they’ll manage to put food on the table and pay for their day-to-day needs without an income. Above all, they are scared, uncertain, worried, and in dire need of someone who will be compassionate toward them.

As a result, it’s important that you be that person for them. Let them know that you want to listen to what they have to say and that you want to help and be there for them in any way you possibly can.

Communicate with your tenants.

While it’s important to sympathize with your tenants and compassionately hear out what they’re going through, you do need to make it clear that rent is still due. That might be a hard pill for them to swallow, but above all, you need to communicate clearly with your tenants so that they are aware of and understand all the rental lease terms. If need be, walk them through all the different aspects of paying rent, including how they can pay, how much is due, and by when payments need to be received. By the same token, your tenants should be making an effort to communicate clearly with you about their situation and any questions or confusion they may have.

It’s also important that tenants are aware of the late fee. Even if your tenants are struggling financially at the moment, the possibility of a late fee may incentivize them to pay rent sooner rather than later. This just goes to show it’s a matter of what your tenants prioritize when it comes to paying for the essentials.

It is fair to note that evictions are being suspended in many US states currently. This may lead your tenant to assume that the need to pay rent is also being suspended so that they consequently slack on paying you. However, rent is still due — so it’s of utmost importance to inform tenants of what the rules really are so that they don’t try to slip through any potential loopholes.

Provide some options for your tenant.

After letting your tenant know that they still have to pay rent, give them some options and suggestions on what they can do. One important thing to do is to keep a lookout for any government assistance programs, whether local, state, or federal, that may be offering cash to adults throughout the United States.

Another option is that the tenant could potentially borrow money from someone else — perhaps a relative, friend, or someone they trust. Of course, this is not the most ideal option, but it can certainly be helpful if the tenant is really short on money.

Being a landlord during COVID-19 is undoubtedly stressful. But even when tenants are late with rent or are unable to pay, there are ways to properly handle the situation so that everyone involved is able to carry out their own responsibilities. As events progress, keep an eye out for new developments and make sure to remain in honest, open communication with your tenants.

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