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by James Safonov

landlord helpNearly all tenants will pay rent late at some point during their tenancy.  Most remedy the delinquency with a full rent payment and payment of the late fee.
At times some tenants do not make the proper payments and begin to generate lots of late fees.  These tenants often begin making later and later rent payments, further challenging the patience of the owner or property manager.  How to proceed?

My first effort is a stern phone call followed up with an email and or letter.  Service of a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit possession should not be used as a late fee reminder.  This only lessens the effect of the legal notice.  Only use the 3-day if you intend on acting on it.

If they do not pay rent by the 15th of the month–this is typically their second pay check in the month, then they are not going to pay.  You must start the eviction by the middle of the month or sooner.

Do not start accepting partial rental payments.  This is a band-aid approach that will cost you more down the road as the rent due increases.  The delinquent tenant is making the decision to evict for you by not paying.

The story du jour does not pay the mortgage for the property.  Property managers need to understand that being easy on tenants for delinquent rent makes them easy marks for the property owner to fire.  Keep your job, keep your client happy and informed….remove the delinquencies!

James Safonov, is a property manager with HomePointe in Sacramento, California. HomePointe provides full service property management, leasing, accounting, and maintenance. Email or call 916.781.7075 x 650. See more Landlord Tips from James Safonov.

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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  • Lisa Everingham

    I have had a great deal of success with the Pay Day payment plan. In it, the tenant can pay on their payday every other week. It allows the tenant to make smaller, more frequent payments, esp. if they have the problem of spending every dime they have as soon as they get it! In return, we have them pay an extra $10 per payday, plus they commit to pay 28 pays a year (as the plan is biweekly NOT bimonthly). This nets us an additional month’s rent every year they remain on the Payday plan. We, of course, make sure tenant’s understand this fact.

    We have had terrific success with several tenants who were chronically late when trying to pay by the first. Since going on the payday plan, they have had a nearly perfect record of ontime payments.

    Of course, we have also had some tenants where this type of plan did absolutely no good and they continued to pay late. So you must be discerning when implementing this.

  • Dr. Science

    I’ve noticed that in listening, the art of “reading” tenants body language helps. There are certain ways in which one can tell just what part of whatever it is they’re saying can be monitored so as to know exactly when an “untruth” pops out of the tenants mouth. Many in law enforcement understand this also. As the tenant looks directly at you, notice what their mouths are doing. Sure fire way to tell….. Their lips are moving.

  • Anthony

    Excellent idea Lisa, that is double good since you increase overall income and the rate of on-time payment! Another idea that I have heard about is to offer an early payment discount which in essence is a subtraction of a would-be late payment fee…that way a person doesn’t lessen their income by offering a “discount.”

  • Dan

    I NEVER charge a late fee. Most courts I’ve been in (and that’s been quite a few over the years) frown on penalties with tenants. Instead the lease is WRITTEN at an amount of $100 OVER the agreed upon rent ($200 on higher rent homes). I then give them an ON-TIME BONUS if they are prompt. I always tell them at the beginning “If you’re late….we automatically go to the full lease amount. Don’t even ask…just send the full amount if it isn’t in my hands by the 3rd)” It’s been pretty effective and they like the idea of “getting a bonus”. So do the lawyers I’ve spoken with about my leases.

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