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Sooner or later (hopefully later), every landlord is going to have a tenant who pays late. Or worse yet, doesn’t pay at all.

If it happens to you, time is of the essence, and its important to have a well-conceived plan already laid out.


Adopt policies that make it easy to pay rent on time, and difficult to pay late. For example, accepting electronic payments, credit cards, or direct deposit make it easy to pay on time.

Stress the importance of on-time rent payments at leasing.

Send out an invoice with return envelope enclosed.

Make sure the rent due date is realistic (i.e. it coincides with when they receive their paychecks).

Diplomat, or Enabler?

Evictions are expensive and time-consuming. So is finding a new tenant. From this perspective, it is tempting to try to work something out with your delinquent tenant. Occasionally you’ll have a tenant who has genuinely experienced a temporary financial hardship — one that is resolvable — and it can be in your best interest to help them through their rough patch.

But heres the hard reality: The majority of late paying tenants will do it again. Not paying rent is a big deal, and its in your best interest to make the tenant understand that.

Accepting payments late with no consequences, or accepting partial payments not only encourage late payers, but it can compromise your rights to re-take the property. The longer you allow a late payer to string it out, the more you risk becoming an enabler.

Be Prepared for Battle

Even though it may be in your best interest to help ethical tenants through a rough patch, experience dictates that if your tenant launches a habit of late pays, it will get worse with time. There is always the chance that your tenant is stringing you along intentionally, trying to live rent-free while they save money or search for another place to live. You need to know what your legal options are and be ready to take action.

Collect Your Due

Once a tenant account goes seriously delinquent, your likelihood of successfully collecting the debt drops precipitously. Therefore, it is crucial to aggressively pursue the debt with all means at your disposal. This includes submitting the debt to a collection agency and employing all legal means of collection.

With AAOA, landlords have resources at their fingertips. Check out our new Landlord Forms Page.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your rental housing investment, including rental forms, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at

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