Dealing with late rent during eviction can be complex for landlords, balancing legal obligations and financial implications.
- Eviction starts with a pay or quit notice.
- Accepting late rent may waive eviction rights.
- Partial payments can reset the eviction process.
- Tenant screening can help avoid late rent situations.
- State and local laws may affect eviction proceedings.
Collecting late rent can be one of the most frustrating parts of 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 like getting any 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.
What will you 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
- What Happens if a Tenant Pays Late Rent After Eviction Proceedings Start?
- 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 tenants receive from the landlord when the payment is late. The notice gives the tenant time to pay the total late rent before you take the next step and file the proper paperwork with the municipal court.
The Pay Or Quit Timeline
When a tenant is ten days late on rent, the landlord is within their rights to issue a pay or quit notice. Being ten days late can still lead to eviction proceedings if the tenant fails to respond adequately to this notice. Tenants must understand that even a delay of 10 days in rent payment can trigger the start of eviction processes, subject to state and local regulations.
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. You must include specific deadlines for the time frame in the notice. Depending on your local and state law terms, that 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 evict the tenant for non-payment of rent.
Even if you wouldn’t be heartbroken to see these tenants out of your rental property, you must accept the late rent payment and late fees if they are paid in full, no matter what. As long as you receive the payment in full 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 owed by the deadline, you can begin the eviction process in earnest, including filing with the court, gathering evidence, and preparing for an eviction case. Check out our guide here to learn more about the overall eviction process.
If a landlord accepts full or partial late rent after starting eviction proceedings, they typically waive their rights to continue the eviction. This resets the process, and you must issue a new pay or quit notice for any further action.
If You Accept Payment, The Process Resets
If you agree to accept 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 send a notice to the tenant on a Monday and accept 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 won’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 up to you 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 driving the tenant’s lateness, you may 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 can only start the eviction process from the missed date of the new deadlines, not the original one.
Sometimes, the tenant will call and offer to pay rent once you’ve already filed the paperwork necessary to begin an eviction case with the court.
You’ve probably gathered by now that accepting late rent payments waives your rights in the eviction process in most states.
If you accept the whole or even partial late rent payment, the courts must dismiss your eviction process. You then waive your rights to the eviction process as initially filed, and 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 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 happy to get any rent money and will take full or partial payments until the eviction trial.
The critical thing to remember is that no matter when you accept the rent during the eviction process, you must cease pursuing an eviction when the money changes hands.
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 whole or partial, once they file the papers.
State And Local Exceptions
Several states with newer laws allow landlords to accept partial payments of late rent without waiving their rights to the eviction process already in place. Some areas only enable commercial landlords to do this, while some include residential landlords in this exception.
You should check with the eviction laws in your state to see exactly what you can and cannot do regarding 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 continue with an eviction once you have begun the process? There are several 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 avoiding 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 rent owed 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 can’t pay back, their situation usually doesn’t improve enough to suddenly come up with extra money. Many landlords think it is best to take any money offered and 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.” Many tenants out there have figured out that when a landlord accepts rent payment, the eviction process stops. They 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 state. Unless you have an excellent 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 considering going down the road of an eviction, you’ll need to get a new tenant.
We’ve created a tenant screening guide that will walk you through the entire process of how to get the best possible tenant in your rental.
Here are some commonly asked questions centering around tenant evictions, accepting rent, and what to pay attention to as you navigate this difficult period.
Can A Landlord Charge Rent After Eviction?
After eviction from a property, any unpaid rent owed before the eviction is still owed by the tenant to the landlord. 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 months 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. This money is no longer referred to as back rent but should be referred to as a judgment amount. The court determination should outline how that money will be collected and how long the tenant has to make payments.
Do You Have To Pay Rent If You Get Evicted?
After an eviction notice is issued, tenants are legally obligated to continue paying rent until the eviction process is concluded or until they vacate the premises. This means that rent payments are due as per the lease agreement, even during the eviction proceedings. Failure to pay rent during this period may result in additional legal consequences or financial liabilities for the tenant.
The tenant is also responsible for unpaid rent up to the eviction since the lease is a contractual obligation to pay rent. Sometimes, the landlord will be awarded a judgment against the tenant for the unpaid rent.
A tenant can try to avoid this payment, but it will be tough for them to secure any loan in the future with an unpaid judgment on record.
Can You Reverse An Eviction Notice?
An eviction notice, also known as a 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; therefore, 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 you and your tenant can agree on a resolution.
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 a few reasons in particular that you might lose an eviction case brought against a tenant:
- You accepted partial or complete 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’s responsibilities
The primary reason a court might decide an eviction case in the tenant’s favor is that the landlord is not following their duties properly.
If you break the proper eviction procedure, the case will likely fail, 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 must ensure your actions align with the rules to have a successful eviction case.
However, just because a tenant wins an eviction case does not mean you cannot try to evict them again if they break the lease terms. However, if they continue to pay on time and uphold their lease, the tenant can 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, 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 Can You Be Before An Eviction?
Typically, the eviction protocol and process are spelled out in the lease. Many landlords will have a strict policy to issue a pay or quit notice a certain number of days past the rent due date. Some states require a three-day notice, while others may require a 5-day pay or quit notice.
A landlord can issue an eviction notice when the pay or quit notice has been given and the required time has elapsed. Therefore, most landlords can start eviction within 3-10 days of unpaid rent. It’s not a question of how many months but how many days late on rent before eviction.
What Are Tenants’ Rights if They Have Been Issued a 3 Day Notice To Pay Or Quit?
If a tenant has been issued a three-day notice to pay or quit, they must deliver the late rent in full within three 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 the best option for accepting partial payments.
While you may decide to make such decisions on a case-by-case basis, it’s much better to settle on an operating procedure 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 you send a notice
- How many times a tenant can be late before you will no longer tolerate 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 frustrate you 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 long-term rental situation.