Updated July 2020
Collecting late rent can be one of the most frustrating parts about being a landlord. After all, collecting money for the use of your rental property is the primary reason you got into real estate investing.
When tenants force landlords to start the eviction process, it can seem as if getting any kind of money out of the process is a long time away. It’s not unusual for the tenants to get angry when they receive a notice that the eviction process has been started.
Some tenants abandon the unit, while others stay put and fight the eviction. You may even be able to arrange a cash-for-keys situation where you pay the tenants to leave quickly with no damage to the property.
Do you know what you will do if a tenant contacts you about paying some or all of the late rent money after the eviction process has started? What’s best for you to do? How will you proceed? What effects will your choices have? It’s time to figure that out!
Table Of Contents For Late Rent During The Eviction Process
- Eviction Starts With A Pay Or Quit Notice
- Accepting Late Rent During The Eviction Process: What Happens Next?
- Paying Rent After An Eviction Case Is Filed
- Weighing The Pros And Cons
- Tenant Screening To Avoid Late Rent Payments
- FAQs About Accepting Late Rent During The Eviction Process
- Making The Choice About Late Rent
The first thing that must happen when your tenant is late on rent is for you to send them a pay or quit notice. The pay or quit notice is the official written document that tenants receive from the landlord when the payment is late.The notice gives the tenant time to pay the full amount of late rent before you will take the next step and file the proper paperwork with the municipal court.
The Pay Or Quit Timeline
Once you send out a pay or quit notice, the tenant will have a specific amount of time to pay rent or respond to the notice. The specific deadlines of the time frame must be included in the notice. Depending on your local and state law terms, that time period may be anywhere from 3 to 14 days.
What Happens If The Tenant Pays Before The Deadline
When you accept that payment in full, with the appropriate late fees, it means you are dismissing the eviction process. In other words, accepting the payment waives your rights to proceed in evicting the tenant for non-payment of rent.
Even if you wouldn’t be heartbroken to see these tenants out of your rental property, you are obligated to accept the late rent payment and late fees if they are being paid in full, no matter what. As long as the payment in full is received by the notice’s deadline, you must accept the late rent and cannot file anything in court.
What Happens If The Tenant Doesn’t Pay By The Deadline?
If the tenant does not pay the rent that is owed by the deadline, you are free to begin the eviction process in earnest. This means moving on to filing with the court, gathering evidence, and preparing for an eviction case in court. To learn more about the overall eviction process, check out our guide here.
The tricky part of navigating a late rent pay or quit situation is when the tenant offers to pay you partial rent during the eviction process, with the promise to complete the payment sometime in the future. What happens when this type of payment is offered?
If You Accept Payment, The Process Resets
If you agree to accepting a partial rent payment during a pay or quit timeline, you are waiving your rights to proceed with the eviction process.
In other words, if you sent a notice to the tenant on a Monday and you accepted partial payment on Wednesday, the Monday notice is no longer legal or valid. If they fail to pay the second part of the late rent, you wouldn’t be able to revert to the Monday notice. You would have to start the pay or quit process all over again from the beginning.
It’s really up to you as to whether you will accept a partial payment during the pay or quit timeline. If the tenants are good ones and are rarely or never late, or there has been some outside circumstance that is driving the tenant’s lateness, you may feel like you want to give them a break.
Because it is your property, you are, of course, able to negotiate however you want to receive the late rent payment.
However, if the tenant fails to meet your negotiated deadlines with rent payment in full, you would only be able to start the eviction process from the missed date of the new deadlines, not from the original missed date.
In some cases, the tenant will call and offer to pay rent once you’ve already filed the eviction paperwork necessary to begin an eviction case with the court.
You’ve probably gathered by now that accepting late rent payment waives your rights in the eviction process in most states.
If you accept the full or even partial late rent payment, your eviction process must be dismissed by the courts. Landlords are waiving their rights to the eviction process as originally filed. If you want to evict again, you must start over from the beginning, which is serving a new pay or quit notice.
Many landlords choose not to accept any payment once the papers have been filed in court. Others may decide they will accept full payment but not partial payment. Still, other landlords are just happy to get any amount of rent money and will accept full or partial payments right up until the eviction trial.
The key thing to remember is that no matter when the rent is accepted during the eviction process, the landlord must cease pursuing an eviction.
If you refuse the late rent payment and do not accept it, the eviction process continues and you are within your rights to keep going. Landlords may reject any rent payment, in full or partial, once the papers have been filed.
State And Local Exceptions
There are several states with newer laws that actually allow landlords to accept partial payments of late rent without waiving their rights to the eviction process already in place. Some areas only allow commercial landlords to do this, while some include residential landlords in this exception as well.
You should check with the eviction laws in your own state to see exactly what you can and cannot do when it comes to accepting late rent payments after the eviction process has begun.
Is accepting partial payment on late rent worth needing to start the eviction process over, or should you just continue with an eviction once you have begun the process? There are a number of aspects of the eviction situation you should consider to make your own decision about whether or not to accept late rent payments.
Avoiding Tenant Turnover
Some landlords feel that any money in their hands is worth it, because the eviction process can take up to two months in some areas. They figure that any amount is better than nothing and keep giving their tenants a break in hopes that they will catch up. Finding new tenants and the cost of turnovers may be worth being avoided if the tenant keeps their word and makes partial payments as agreed.
Collecting Back Rent Is Difficult
Other landlords justify taking partial or late rent because they know how hard it is to collect back rent once the tenant does move out. The odds of getting any money in owed rent from a small claims court are small.
You may win the lawsuit but statistics show that many landlords don’t actually collect from their former tenants. After all, if the tenants couldn’t pay back then, their situations usually don’t improve enough to come up with extra money all of a sudden. Many landlords think it is best to take any money offered and simply not renew the lease agreement if it is within a few months.
Repeated violations of late rent with partial payments may also be the operating procedure of “professional tenants.” There are many tenants out there who have figured out that when a landlord accepts rent payment, the eviction process stops. They will often take advantage of new or inexperienced landlords and offer just enough to back them off while they stay in the rental property practically rent free for weeks or months at a time.
Avoid The Back-And-Forth
Landlords who wish to avoid getting pulled back and forth with tenants who go through the eviction cycle month after month, for whatever reason, should establish some set policies and be familiar with the eviction process in their own state. Unless you have a really good reason to make an exception on late rent for the tenants, it’s best to treat it like a business and move forward rather than get yanked around month after month.
If you’re thinking about going down the road of an eviction, you’ll need to get a new tenant in the future.
We’ve created a tenant screening guide that will walk you through the entire process on how to get the best possible tenant in your rental.
Here are some commonly asked questions centering around tenant evictions, accepting rent, and what you should be paying attention to as you navigate this difficult period.
Can A Landlord Charge Rent After Eviction?
After a tenant is evicted from a property, the landlord can no longer charge them monthly rent. The responsibility of covering rental costs until the unit is re-rented are transferred to the landlord, and upcoming rent will be covered by their business.
Any unpaid rent that was owed before the eviction, however, is still owed by the tenant to the landlord. This means that if you send out an eviction notice and the tenant agrees to leave, they will still owe you for the previous months of back rent, but they will not be responsible for any month’s of future rent.
If you take a tenant to court to determine the outcome of the eviction case, the judge will decide how much back rent is owed and how it should be paid. To make things clear, this money is no longer referred to as back rent but instead should be referred to as a judgment amount. The court determination should outline how that money is to be collected and how long the tenant has to make payments.
Can You Reverse An Eviction Notice?
An eviction notice, also known as 3-day or 5-day pay or quit notice, is just the beginning of the eviction process and is not a final determination of eviction, so it can be reversed.
If you send an eviction notice to your tenant, they make the required payments, and you decide to accept the payments, the notice will no longer apply. The eviction notice will only continue to apply if the tenant does not pay rent, you as the landlord decide not to accept the late rent, and you move the situation on to a civil court hearing.
The point of the notice is to ensure that both the tenant and the landlord are on the same page about the current state of the rental payments. The notice opens communication between both parties so a resolution can, hopefully, be agreed upon.
Do Tenants Ever Win Eviction Cases?
As with any court case that works through the due process of the law, it is always possible for either party to win; a tenant could win an eviction case that you bring against them.
There are few reason in particular that you might lose an eviction case brought against a tenant:
- You accepted partial or full rent payment for the most recent rental month
- You did not file the court case properly
- You did not give the correct eviction notice to the tenant
- The tenant is refusing to pay because you are not following through with your landlord responsibilities
As you can see, the primary reason that an eviction case might be decided in the tenant’s favor is that the landlord is not following their duties properly.
If you break the proper procedure of eviction, the case is unlikely to succeed, so you always want to be sure that you are carefully following the process from start to finish. The court system is there to uphold the laws, so you need to be sure your actions are in line with the rules in order to have a successful eviction case.
Just because a tenant wins an eviction case, however, does not mean you cannot try to evict them again in the future if they break the terms of the lease. If they continue to pay on time and uphold their lease, however, the tenant will be able to continue to stay at the unit until their lease expires.
Here is more information about what could happen when you lose an eviction case.
Can You Be Evicted If The Landlord Accepts Partial Rent Payments?
If a landlord accepts a partial payment on late rent, then the landlord gives up their right to pursue an eviction. However, if the following month the tenant is late again and the landlord refuses to accept any payment that month, then they would be within their rights to pursue an eviction.
How Many Months Late On Rent Before An Eviction?
Typically, the eviction protocol and process are spelled out in the lease. Many landlords will have a strict policy where they will issue a pay or quit notice X number of days past the rent due date. Some states require a 3 day notice while others may require a 5 day pay or quit notice.
A landlord is within their rights to issue an eviction notice when the pay or quit notice has been issued and the required time has elapsed. Therefore, most landlords can start the eviction process within 3-10 days of rent not being paid. It’s not a question of how many months but how many days late on rent before eviction.
Do You Have To Pay Rent If You Get Evicted?
In the situation where a tenant is evicted, they are liable for the remainder of their lease. That is until the landlord re-rents the unit.
For unpaid rent, up to the eviction, the tenant is responsible for that as well since the lease is a contractual obligation to pay rent. In some cases, the landlord will be awarded a judgment against the tenant for the unpaid rent.
A tenant can try and avoid this payment but it will be very difficult to secure any kind of loan in the future with an unpaid judgment on record.
What Are 3 Day Notice To Pay Or Quit Tenant Rights?
If a tenant has been issued a 3 day notice to pay or quit, this means they must pay the late rent in full within 3 days or they will be served an eviction notice. Unless the unit was inhabitable for some reason, the tenant does not have rights against a pay or quit notice if they’re late on rent.
Ultimately, it’s up to you and your personal view of each situation as it emerges to decide what the best option is when it comes to accepting partial payments.
While you may decide you want to make decisions like this based on a case-by-case basis, it’s a much better idea to decide an operating procedure that you will follow with every tenant. That way, there is no room for bias, discrimination (inadvertent or otherwise), or bad business decisions.
When you have a specific system in place, it is easy to use that process as the deciding factor, and you can ensure the process covers the issues you might face:
- When to accept partial payments
- How long tenants have to pay late rent before a notice will be sent
- How many times a tenant can be late before you will no longer accept late rent and proceed with eviction
- What the eviction process will look like in terms of documentation and paperwork
Delaying the eviction process over and over again can leave you with a string of partial payments and a bad message to your tenants that they can push you to the limits and you will still accept some money.
Sometimes, it’s better to go through the eviction process and get some good tenants in rather than mess around with tenants who will make you frustrated every month with late rent, excuses, extra worry, and trips to the courthouse.
Take time to choose the best tenants possible, and you’ll be in a much better rental situation long term.