Non-Payment of Other Than Rent

Author: Todd Christiansen | Category: Eviction

It can be frustrating at how tenants will play games with you as the landlord.  Like when you tested your parents, tenants will often push you to see how much they can get away with.  Maybe they pay their rent one day past when the rent is due.   Maybe they short the rent check by a little each month.  They figure that you are not going to do anything over these small issues.  So what do you do?

If the tenant pays after the due date, charge the late fee.  Send them a late letter and tell them about the late fee.  Sometimes, the tenant will not pay the late fee.  I would not try to evict them for the late fee, which may be $25-75.  Do you really want to risk the tenant moving out or do you really want to pay the $320 eviction fee to collect $75?  I recommend that you simply keep it  on their statement.  Once the move out, deduct it from their security deposit.  If you need to evict the tenant in the future, add that amount to the eviction amount.  It is easier to slip that extra in there when they are least expecting it.

I think you should use the same technique if the tenant shorts the rent check each month or occasionally. Send them a statement showing the amount that the owe so they can’t argue in court that they don’t owe it.  If you send it every month by the 15th, it is hard for them to tell the court on month 9 they never knew about it!

Other charges such as water bills, heat bills, and security deposits can be even more difficult to address.  Whenever possible, have the tenants pay the bills directly such as the utility bills.  Then they are on the hook with the utility company, not you.  And trust me, the utility companies have rooms full of people in collections.  If you have a building where the utilities are shared or some arrangement that makes as the landlord responsible for collecting that amount, I would truly look into finding a way to split the utilities up to shift the costs to the tenants.

Some bills such as the water bill should always be paid by the owner because if left unpaid, they can be assessed against the property.  Often you don’t find those until long after the tenant and their security deposit is gone.  Just wrap that cost into the rent and keep a watch on the on-going expenses.

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