As a landlord, you’ll quickly be forced out of your comfort zone. For individuals who strive to avoid confrontation or offending others, it can be easy to become a pushover landlord. Unfortunately, you won’t last long with this kind of reputation. You need to tackle late rent issues head-on to avoid any future catastrophes. Do you know how to effectively handle the plethora of excuses tenants will throw at you?
If you’re an experienced landlord, you probably think you’ve heard all the excuses in the book. However, you’ll keep hearing new ones as long as you’re in the business. For new landlords, you need to be prepared for the apologies and excuses you’ll hear. Here are some of the most common:
• “I mailed it a few days ago –the post office must have lost it.”
This is by far the most common excuse. Everyone likes to blame the post office, because it’s nearly impossible for the landlord to trace the lie.
• “It’s been a tough month. I had to buy groceries for my kids.”
This is an example of a sympathy excuse, and almost always comes at the expense of children. After all, who’s going to demand a rent payment over a needy child?
• “Work has been slow. I’ll have it next month.”
For self-employed tenants, it’s quite common – true or not – to blame late payments on a lack of business. This excuse is often used over and over for an extended period of time.
• “I’ve been sick and medical bills have wiped me out.”
Much like excuses related to children, tenants know that landlords will be forced to feel sympathy if they’ve been sick.
There are literally thousands of other excuses, but they all come down to a single problem, that you don’t have your rent payment in hand. While it can be easy to feel bad for tenants after hearing their excuses, you must accept the truth; it’s either you or them. Without rent payments, it’s entirely possible that you’ll be the one in a bad financial situation –not the other way around.
Starting with the Basics
We have already talked at length about how to screen the proper tenants and find long-term renters, but it’s worth repeating. While you can’t avoid all future problems, you can certainly reduce your risk by finding reliable tenants from the start.
Instead of taking on tenants at random and dealing with the consequences later, you must implement a calculated approach. Use a rental application, run credit and background checks, contact references, and above all else –get comfortable. Interview potential tenants and find out what they’re really like.
Even after discovering all of the details and conducting a personal interview, you can’t always find perfect tenants. It’s in these situations that you need to have a plan in place to handle late rent excuses.
• Be strict from the start.
One late payment isn’t usually a big deal for a landlord. What is a big deal, however, is when it becomes a habit. While you may like to give your tenant the benefit of the doubt the first time they miss a rent payment, do so cautiously. Many tenants are skilled at handling landlords and look for weakness or compassion. Bad habits are hard to break and a tenant with financial issues will always look for a pushover landlord. Be strict from the start and you’ll show your tenants you’re serious about rent collection.
• Encourage communication.
Tenants that understand their landlord as a person, rather than someone they send money, are more likely to pay their rent on time. Encourage communication with your tenants and don’t be afraid to meet with them face-to-face on a regular basis. You can even drop by in person to collect rent; it makes excuses that much harder to use. By encouraging communication, you are actually facilitating a functional relationship.
• Implement a late fee.
One of the best ways to show you’re serious is to implement a late fee. There is no greater motivation for a tenant to get their payment in on time than money, or the loss of such. There are various strategies on how much to charge – as well as a legal maximum – but the point is to make it inconvenient and costly for the tenant to miss their rent payment.
• Have a plan ahead of time.
The problem many landlords encounter is that they don’t have a plan for handling excuses. Instead, they are left to come up with an idea on the spot. If you’re forced to do this, you’re already behind. You should have strict rules in place to avoid letting emotions run the decision making process.
• Evict if you must.
While eviction should only be used in extreme cases and as a last resort, it is a tool, and can be used for tenants that are way behind. After all, when a tenant is behind, so are you. Before evicting a tenant, ensure that you’ve given them multiple chances to pay their rent and make up the outstanding balance.
• Always remain professional.
Above all else, avoid losing your cool. Dealing with late payments can be frustrating, but you will gain nothing from threatening to cut off utilities or take legal action. Personal attacks won’t be looked upon favorably by anyone involved. The more professional you remain, the more receptive your tenants will likely be.
You Don’t Have to Do it on Your Own
Thankfully, being a landlord doesn’t mean you have to deal with the challenges of collecting rent. Instead, you can partner with a professional property management company to take the frustration out of the equation.
Let Green Residential Collect Your Rent Payments
At Green Residential, we are experienced at rent collection and property management in the Houston area. In fact, we’ve been doing it for more than 30 years. That means we understand how to interact with tenants and get you your money on time, every time. For more information on the services we offer, please contact us today!