If you have been a landlord for a number of years you probably heard this question from one of your tenants. If you are a new landlord, you will hear it at some point in your future.
There is a right way and a wrong way to answer this question. The first thing you need to know is the legal process in your state. Since I am licensed in Georgia we will use Georgia Landlord tenant law.
As we discuss Georgia Landlord Tenant law, remember these numbers… 1-3-5-8.
The numbers represent the following:
1–Rent Due, 3-Late Fee, 5-Tack & Mail demand notice, 8-Dispossesory filed
Georgia law requires landlord to issue a Tack & Mail notice giving the tenant a few days to pay the rent in full. After the few days have passed you can file the dispossessory in county court. The cost to file is about $70 to $90 depending on the county. Your tenant will be served a court summons to respond. Depending on the availability of the Sheriff’s office, this may take another seven to ten days.
The tenant now has seven days to respond to the notice. Let’s say they respond on the seventh day. A court date should be scheduled about ten to fourteen days.
What does all this have to do with answering the question in the title of the article?
Let’s see where we stand on the calendar
May 1 – Rent Due
May 3 – Late Fee imposed
May 5 – Tack & Mail Notice sent
May 8 – Dispossessory filed
May 15 – Sheriff serves summons
May 22 – Tenant responds to summons
June 5 – Court date scheduled
Getting back to your tenants original question he asked you at the end of the prior month. “I can’t pay the rent until the 14th”.
I would respond this way: “John, you know I have to follow the legal process however I may be able to assist you. Your lease states you will incur a late fee on the third of the month, you do understand this? Good.
Following the legal process you should expect to get a Tack & Mail notice posted on your door by the 5th of the month. Do you understand?
I will have to file a dispossessory eviction with the courts on May 8 and you will be responsible for the legal fees which may be about $70 to $90. Do you understand?
Go ahead and pay the rent on May 14 along with the $100 late fee and the $70 court fee and I will cancel the eviction process and we will be fine for the month of May.”
The first point… as a landlord you must know the legal process can take 30 days. You do not want to delay this longer than necessary.
Point two… Up until serving the writ of possession, the costs are relatively inexpensive.
Point three… you can always cancel the process if you get paid
And the last point… Your plan of action will result in a tenant who knows you are serious and will pay you on time going forward. Or you will have to evict them and will not have lost valuable time getting the tenant out of your home.