6 Things to Do When a Tenant Stops Paying Rent

6 Things to Do When a Tenant Stops Paying Rent

Every landlord experiences it at some point: your tenant stops paying rent.

A lot of people into the landlord business purely by accident.

Everything usually goes well, at least, for a while.

Without proper education, screening processes may consist of a neighbor knowing a person who needed a place.

Eventually, not surprisingly, these tenants stopped paying rent.

Without much experience as a landlord at the time, a new landlord may be inclined to listen to their tenant’s excuses and regularly take rent payments late.

Before too long, you could find that your tenant is six months behind on rent.


Knowing what to do when a tenant stops paying rent is going to save you a ton of headaches down the road.

What To Do When A Tenant Stops Paying Rent

1. Talk With Your Tenant

Get in touch quickly to find out why they didn’t pay the rent.

Ideally, you’d do this in person or on the phone, followed up with a written note.

You might hear something you didn’t expect: Maybe there was a bank error, or the tenant simply forgot. Or perhaps the renter misunderstood the grace period or late-fee policy.

Whatever the reason, make it clear that the rent must be paid on time.

You can then assess a late fee if the state or local laws permit.

The prevailing wisdom is to act quickly and be respectful — but also firm.

You don’t want the renter to be late again, and you don’t want to get a reputation as a pushover.

If you wish to make an exception for an otherwise wonderful longtime tenant (and you don’t think you’ll later wind up in court for eviction proceedings), make a written agreement spelling out the extension terms.

And if they miss that deadline — be prepared to end the lease.

If the tenant is broke, you most likely won’t be paid, so consider saying that you’ll end the lease without penalty if the renter moves out within the week.

Alternatively, work with the renter on a plan to move out within a reasonable amount of time.

2. Send a “Pay or Quit” Notice

Almost every state requires a landlord to send a “Notice to pay or quit” when a tenant fails to pay rent.

No landlord wants to deal with a resident who is not paying their rent.

Thankfully, if your tenant’s rent is just a few days overdue and it’s the first offense, you can usually resolve it with a written reminder.

But if a few days turns to 30, 60 or even 90 days of overdue rent, then it’s time to take more serious and binding action.

The first step is to send the delinquent tenant a pay or quit notice.

This notice is sent after an overdue rent notice but before eviction proceedings as a way for your tenant to make good on their rent or else vacate the property.

You must deliver a pay or quit notice in writing.

If you’re sending it by mail, send it via Certified Mail and keep your receipt.

This will prove that they received the letter if you end up in the eviction courts.

In it, include how much rent they owe and the number of days they have to pay in full.

Check your local or state laws for the amount of time to give them to make the payment (it could be anywhere between 3 and 14 days).

Always work with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney in your area.

A pay or quit notice template simplifies a sometimes difficult task and ensures you deliver consistent notices every time you have a tenant who is falling behind.

If they don’t pay, and they don’t move out, then you can formally terminate their agreement and they lose the right to occupy the dwelling.

If they still refuse to leave, then you have to file an action with your local eviction court.

3. File an Eviction Action When Tenants Stop Paying Rent

The only way to legally “force” a tenant out of a property is with the sheriff’s help.

A landlord is never allowed to lock out a tenant or turn off essential utilities.

If you have a rogue tenant, you might have to go down to your local courthouse and fill out the proper paperwork to initiate the eviction process.

They will likely want to see the “Notice to Pay or Quit” that you sent, so be sure to bring that with you.

Once you pay the court fees, the administrator will schedule your hearing, which is usually 2-6 weeks out.

You might be responsible for serving the tenant the subpoena, but some courts will do this for you.

Then, show up on your court date, explain your case, and hopefully, you will win a judgment against the tenant.

Then you can hire the sheriff to remove the tenant by force.

4. Pay Your Tenant to Leave: Cash for Keys

If your tenant doesn’t pay the rent after your talk, you still have a chance to avoid the eviction process.

You can make a deal using Cash For Keys.

If your tenant isn’t paying the rent because of financial problems, they might be motivated to move pronto if you pay them.

Yes, I know that this idea feels wrong.

They owe you money, so why should you pay them?

You need to get your emotions out of this and weigh the costs and benefits in a businesslike manner to help you make the decision.

An eviction will get the tenant out.

But it won’t be immediate.

Check with your jurisdiction to find out how long evictions typically take.

Evictions generally take longer than you want to wait, typically one to three months.

If your tenant leaves immediately because you paid them, say, $250, $500, or even $1,000, you will probably be better off, not to mention the stress you’ll save yourself over the next month or more from going through the eviction process then trying to collect on the judgment.

5. Consider Hiring a Property Manager or a Lawyer

If you just aren’t the type to deal with a tenant who stops paying rent, or if you aren’t enforcing timely rent payments each month, you might be better off hiring a property manager.

The same tenant who might try to get away with not paying you for a month or two probably won’t try that once a professional property manager is in charge.

The management company is a neutral third-party with systems in place for handling unpleasant situations.

Alternatively, you could hire a real estate attorney who will try to hunt down your money and barrage the tenant with notices and formal letters.

6. Sell Your Rental and Pass On the Tenant

If you’re just tired of dealing with a bad tenant, you can skip the eviction process and sell the house to an investor like Breyer Home Buyers.

We will buy the property as-is with the tenant and evict the tenants ourselves.

This can save you thousands in real estate attorney fees, months of tenant headaches, vacation days from work when you have to take off to go to court, and the trouble of managing repairs when the tenants inevitably trash the property.

The stress of evicting a tenant is not worth the hassle.

Fill out the form below and get a no-obligation cash offer on your property.

Bottom Line When a Tenant Stops Paying Rent

Take late payments seriously the first time rent is late.

You want to stop the behavior right away before your tenant stops paying rent and the situation gets out of hand.

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