How do you tell your landlord you can’t pay rent?

How do you tell your landlord you can’t pay rent?

You should tell The truth, as soon as possible. You might not be one of them, but there are quite a lot of people who believe that all the rent a tenant pays goes straight into the landlord’s pocket, with no effort required of her; that’s not at all how it works. Most people who rent out properties took out loans to buy them. The money you pay in rent needs to cover the mortgage payments and then some, but it is not at all uncommon for an owner to depend on that income for the repayment of loans. The price of a building is not the only factor which determines the cost of ownership, however. Your landlord needs to pay property taxes and insurance, cover the cost of maintenance and repairs, and quite likely pay staff or a property manager.

Those are the landlord’s regular expenses, and unless she wants to lose money, your rent needs to cover those. It gets even more complicated if you don’t pay your rent, because not only will your landlord have to come out of pocket to cover the cost of ownership, but she might need to evict you. That can cost several thousands of dollars, and the longer she waits to initiate the process, the more time you could end up living there rent free, occupying a unit she desperately needs to rent out.

The best case scenario is one where the properties are paid for, she owns multiple units minimizing the impact of the loss of rent for one, and she has funds set aside to cover expenses. She won’t lose the building in this case, and she won’t go bankrupt, but she will be bleeding money until you leave. The worst case scenario is one where she can’t pay the mortgage or feed her family, one where she could lose everything. In either case – and all those somewhere in between – your landlord will incur significant losses because you have failed to fulfill your side of a legal contract.

I understand that you might be entirely blameless, that your financial difficulties could be due to circumstances outside of your control. Your landlord is aware that this might be the case, but she also knows for a fact that she herself is blameless, and giving you any kind of break will inevitably transfer the burden on to her. People sometimes ask why I would “punish” tenants who cannot pay rent with eviction, but it’s never a punishment – if it were, you might ask why the landlord should be punished instead – it’s a regrettable necessity for any landlord who wants to stay in business.

Delaying the eviction proceedings by giving you a chance to pay late is a gamble for your landlord. She knows that a tenant who was late on rent is much more likely to be late again, or be unable to pay at all. She can bet on you, hoping that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence and that you will pay the full amount at an agreed upon later date. If she is wrong and you don’t pay, she will lose income and carry the expenses for a much longer period of time. If there are applicants ready to move in, she is better off betting against you. Yes, it will mean an occupant turnover that she might have avoided, but that is preferable to a drawn out eviction.

Your lease might specify that you get a grace period, or allow late payments in return for fees, but I will assume that you are unable to pay according to any terms allowed under the lease. In that case you will be asking your landlord to bet on you, to grant you a favor that could be anywhere between costly and devastating for her. What would you like to hear from a tenant in your situation?

I don’t allow late payments except in a couple of extremely unusual situations, and in every case the tenant notified my office as soon as they had any inkling that they might not be able to pay on time. They also gave plausible explanations that made it clear how it wasn’t their fault, and no reasonable actions on their part could have prevented the problem. Most importantly, they were honest and provided documentation to support their story, and they offered proof to show that they would be able to pay later, on the suggested date.

If you want to avoid eviction, you should contact your landlord first thing in the morning. Explain to them that you will not be able to pay on time, and have a clear idea of what you’re asking of her. Do you want her to let you pay two weeks late? Double next month? Can you offer assurances that this won’t happen again? Or is this a symptom of a chronic problem, is the rent too much for you? In that case you’ll need to admit it, and ask for time to move out. Do not lie to her, and expect her to attempt to verify what you tell her. Own it if you messed up, and acknowledge that even if you aren’t to blame, your landlord is not responsible for saving your ass.

Be honest and polite, and be mindful of exactly what it is that you are asking of her. Her creditors aren’t going to give her a break, so be grateful if she agrees to work with you, and respectful if she decides against risking her business and livelihood.

Tell them that you can’t make it or that you’ll be late this month. The primary thing is that you tell them before your rent is due and not after. This is a common mistake that people make and it’s the reason that many landlords find that being a landlord is very unpleasant. If you are straight with the person or people before there is a problem, they are likely to be far more understanding than they would be if you gave them a lame excuse or were confrontational when or after your rent is due.

Having said that, it’s exceptionally unwise to be late with your rent on more than rare occasions, if at all. While landlords may empathize with you and understand temporary setbacks, they are in the business of renting their property and you signed a contract agreeing to pay them that rent. When/if you violate the contract, you violate their trust and regaining that may difficult or impossible.

If you are honest with your landlord, they may still attempt to evict you or not renew your lease, but they usually won’t damage your credit if you are forced to leave their property due to economic reasons. Since bad credit will make it harder to find quality rental housing, every reasonable effort should be made to avoid it.

You must follow these steps to tell your landlord you can’t pay rent?

1Notify the landlord as soon as possible (like 5 min after you know)
2Let them know why.
3BE HONEST and have a plan to present to catch up.
4Formulate a plan of when and how you will pay the rent.
5Understand that you are asking to borrow money from your landlord, and it would be better to seek a loan from a family member, community resource or other options before doing so.
6Right a letter towards the landlord

How do you write a letter to tell your landlord you can’t pay rent?

Hello Landlord,
We find ourselves struggling to pay Aprils rent due to [fill in the why – business closed or shuttered due to COVID, death in the family, (if in the USA, Medical expenses), car broke down, laid off, contract ended, …]
We can pay $XXXX towards April’s rent on or before the first, and expect to be more solvent by April XX when we can catch up the balance.

If the rent for March becomes an issue, we would welcome an opportunity to talk further about how that can be covered, but looking forward, we trust we will be ok by then.

However, rent laws ussually vary from state to state so you better consult local lawyer before finalising anything.

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