REAL ESTATE PRIMER FOR LANDLORDS: YOUR TENANT STOPS PAYING?
The most common issue that arises for a landlord is when a tenant, for whatever reason, stops paying rent. The reasons for non-payment may range from simply forgetting to pay rent a particular month, to unexpected financial difficulty, to not being able to afford the dwelling in the first place. But, in the end, when rent goes unpaid paid, the reasons why may be unimportant.
The first step in the process is to attempt contacting the tenant as soon as the rent is late. Do not let weeks or months go by before taking action. If the tenant simply forgot to pay, you, the landlord, may be able to resolve the issue with a phone call as opposed to instituting a Summary Proceeding, otherwise known as the formal eviction process.
However, if you are unable to reach the tenant or the tenant is either unwilling or unable to pay, the best approach is to begin the steps for eviction. A Summary Proceeding to evict a tenant can restore your right to possession of the property, but certain steps must be followed in order for the eviction to occur.
The first step is to serve an eviction notice immediately. In serving the eviction notice, you have two choices; you may serve a 7-day Demand for Possession or a 30-day Notice to Quit. An eviction notice for the non-payment of rent is called a Demand for Possession and gives the tenant notice to either pay the rent within seven (7) days or to move out. An eviction notice to terminate the tenancy is called a Notice to Quit which notifies the tenant that their tenancy has ended and that they must move out after the expiration of thirty (30) days, regardless of any payment made in the interim. However, in choosing to serve Notice to Quit, the lease must provide that non-payment of rent is a violation of the lease and allow for termination for that violation. [Click here for a Notice to Quit form and here for a Demand for Possession form.] The notice selected must be served personally, delivered to the premises and given to a household member or employee with instructions to give to the person in possession, or by first-class mail, with service being complete the day after mailing. Typically, the eviction notice will be served by the landlord.
If using a Demand for Possession, the issue may be resolved upon service of the eviction notice because it notifies the tenant that the eviction process will end once he or she pays the rent and often times a tenant will pay to avoid eviction. On the other hand, if the tenant does not pay or move out as requested by the Demand for Possession, a complaint can be filed in district court requesting the court to order the eviction. When using a Notice to Quit, if the tenant does not move out within the thirty (30) days prescribed, a complaint can be filed in district court to have the court order eviction as well.
At this stage, you may wish to contact an attorney for assistance in filing the complaint.*
*Attorney Heidi M. Hendrick of the Shinners & Cook law firm can be reached by phone at 989-799-5000 or by email at [email protected].