Oh, snap! You glance at the calendar and your heart drops. Between work deadlines, school assignments, and a busy social life, you forgot to pay your rent. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but your landlord can say “sayonara” for late rent. Is it time to freak out, pack up your apartment, and hit the road? Hold up just one second. Before you resort to hysteria, find out whether a landlord can/will evict you and how you can recover from this snafu.
Before you worry about eviction, ask yourself:
Am I in the grace period?
While most lease agreements state that rent is due on the first day of the month, many landlords allow a grace period. Landlords aren’t legally obligated to do this, but it does make their life a lot easier to build in five or so days of cushion for you.
If there is an immediate penalty for late rent, it will most likely be outlined in the lease. Pull that sucker out and reread the rent payment section.
If it’s the second of the month, don’t panic! Pay that day, and then set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to pay rent on time next month.
What are the eviction laws in my state?
Keep in mind that eviction is a fancy term for getting sued to leave, and it really happens all in the courts. Courts mean procedures. In most states, landlords can’t just tell you to hit the road; they have to go through a process called “terminating the tenancy,” which essentially gives you some time to fix the mistake. Usually, you’ll have three to five days to pay rent plus interest.
However, there are 12 states where landlords can issue you something called an “unconditional quit notice,” which basically tells you to pack your bags. Not sure where your state falls? Visit Nolo to learn about your state’s laws.
What is my relationship with the landlord?
Landlords are humans, too. If you have a good relationship with your landlord and have never (we mean never) done this before, reach out ASAP. Explain your situation and pay right away. Many landlords will be sympathetic. Plus, evicting you is a big pain in the rear, so they’ll probably be happy to avoid courts.
What if the worst really does happen?
It’s happening. You’re getting evicted. Keep in mind that a landlord can’t notify you of an eviction by phone or email. The notice typically must be given to you in writing either by certified mail or in person. If you’re facing such a scenario, find out what happens when you get evicted to learn about your rights and your next steps.
The Bottom Line on Late Rent
Regardless of your situation, as soon as you discover you’ve missed rent: pay it. If you’re unable to pay rent due to financial hardship, reach out to your landlord immediately and talk to them about the situation. Offer to pay what you can and determine what needs to be done to not miss rent again.
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