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What to Do (and Not Do) If You Can't Pay Rent on Time

Life happens to everyone, and every now and then it affects a tenant's ability to pay rent on time, or in full. If you are a faithful and conscientious tenant who is temporarily short on funds for rent, contacting your landlord or property manager to negotiate a one-time late payment is the best way to avoid eviction and problems.

Being upfront with your landlord or property manager is the best way to achieve success in requesting an extension. If you are considered a good tenant, your landlord or property manager certainly won't want to lose you, and it will be in his or her best interest to negotiate a payment agreement with you. Provided you do not habitually have reason to be late or not pay your rent in full, most landlords and property managers should be willing to consider a payment agreement if you:

  • Do not ignore the problem and hope the landlord or property manager won't notice. Communication is the most important step in negotiating a partial or late rent payment.

  • Ask for a few extra days to get the full rent paid. Ask in writing. And ask as far in advance as possible.

  • Explain what difficulty you are currently experiencing and emphasize that they are only temporary, if that is the truth.

  • Offer to pay at least a portion of the month's rent on time.

  • Provide your landlord or property manager with written assurance of your intent to pay the full rent by a precise date, and make sure you adhere to this payment plan.

  • Be prepared to pay whatever late fee is allowed by your lease's late fee policy. While some landlords or property managers may forgo the late fee in a one-time occurrence, do not expect to not pay a penalty for your tardiness.

At no time is it wise to send a check that you know will bounce. Don't offer ridiculously lame excuses. Do not ignore a landlord's or property manager's phone calls, emails or written communication. And never mistake your landlord or property manager for naive, because this is their business.

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