If you are a landlord or rental property manager, some of your tenants might not be paying rent on time or not paying rent at all while COVID-19 continues to affect the nation. Some of these tenants may owe you months of back rent.
Now that the CDC’s moratorium on evictions is over, you are probably moving to evict your non-paying tenants. But evictions are costly and time consuming. There may be other routes to take that are easier for both you and your tenants.
So, before taking action, it’s important to consider the following:
Ask why your tenant stopped making payments. Check if they always paid on time in the past, and if they keep the property in good shape.
Try to get in touch with your tenant. Talk to your tenant and listen to what they are telling you before you make a final decision to evict.
If they do not answer the door or your phone call, leave them a written note (via letter, email, or text message) or voice mail telling them your concerns and what you can do to help. Be polite, but firm in your request to communicate.
A court ordered eviction on a tenant’s credit history can be ruinous for them and their family. You might be able to work out a repayment plan to save the both of you from going to court.
This sounds basic, but make sure your tenant knows what the late rent penalty is in the lease. Re-read the lease to confirm what is written, too.
If there is a court hearing, it is important that all parties are aware of the terms of the lease.
The lease should clearly state the time limit before rent is considered delinquent, what the late rent penalty fees are, and an explanation of the procedures for collecting rent payments and reasons for evictions.
Ask Your Tenant to Be Proactive
There are still active local programs that will pay back rent if your tenant’s reasons for not paying are tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Landlords can help tenants get into emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs that will pay back rent.
Request that your tenant apply for these programs. If they seem reluctant, offer to assist them in the application process
Request Tenant to Move Out Before Filing for Eviction
If the tenant just can’t pay and all other resources have been exhausted, then simply ask them to move out.
Try to get a signature on a written agreement stating the date they will move out, and the date you will file for a court eviction if they do not honor the move-out date. Make sure your tenant understands all conditions of the agreement.
The Last Resort: Eviction
As you probably can guess, the courts are flooded right now with eviction filings. The eviction process may take double the usual time to complete.
You may want to enlist the help of an attorney to understand the rules and procedures that apply to your area before you start the eviction process.
If the court holds up the eviction, remember to be kind to your tenant. Eviction is a big problem for them and can affect their lives for years after.
After the court ordered eviction is complete, try not to get local law enforcement agencies involved unless you absolutely must do so.
When considering future tenants, think about renting to tenants holding Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs).
The HCV program helps landlords get their rent payment on a regular basis. The local housing authority that administers the program will directly pay you a portion (or sometimes all) of the monthly rent. The amount you receive from the housing authority is based on the household’s current income.
If a tenant with a Section 8 Voucher loses their source of income, and if they report that loss to their caseworker, the housing authority will recalculate the tenant’s portion of the rent. In this scenario, the housing authority will pay you more of the monthly rent, or even take over the whole rental payment. Be aware, Section 8 funds cannot be used to make back payments.
And finally, good luck. It’s unfortunate for you and your tenants to be in this position, but kindness and polite firmness is always the best way to approach tenants that have fallen into these situations.