If you are a landlord, then from time to time, one of your tenants may neglect to pay rent. In most cases, this is simply an accident: the tenant forgets, the check gets lost in the mail, there’s a timing issue with the tenant’s finances, etc. In most states, landlords are allowed to add a “late rent fee” if the rent is a certain number of days past due, although each state has specific laws governing tenants’ rights regarding how much the landlord may charge. In some states, it is illegal to charge a fee at all, while in other states, one late rental payment is enough for an eviction.
When a tenant neglects to pay their rent, for whatever reason, most states require a certain notification process, which can range from the landlord simply speaking to the tenant in person, to posting a notice of a 30-day eviction if the rent remains unpaid. Most reasonable landlords will choose to leave a paper trail, and this involves writing a “late rent notice” – simply a note either mailed to the tenant or posted on their door that states that their monthly rent is late, and if there are late fees, how much should be added to the check to cover those.
When and How is a Late Rent Notice Used?
Late rent notices are the beginning of a paper trail with renters who may or may not have issues paying rent in the future. It is a notice to both the tenant and the landlord that reinforces statements made in the lease agreement on 1) timing of rent, 2) how much is due, 3) if there are any late fees involved.
It is very rare for landlords to have to issue more than one or two late rent notices during a tenant’s use of the property. However, if you are concerned that a tenant may have problems paying rent on time in the future, each written late rent notice can be proof of the legality and necessity of a later eviction notice.
Late rent notices are also great reminders to tenants regarding when rent is due. Although rent for most properties is generally due at the end or beginning of the month, you may have a different monthly schedule that takes tenants some time to adjust to. A late rent notice can reinforce the specific days that rent is due at your property.
If you have any specific fees associated with late rent payments, the late rent notice is a good opportunity to enumerate the items in the bill. These should also be written in the lease agreement ahead of time so there is no confusion or disagreement between yourself and your tenant, but giving the tenant the opportunity to review their bill is polite, and legally required in some states.
Late rent notices can be formal or informal. A formal notice might include a legal reminder that eviction is a possibility if lease agreement policies, including timely rental payments, are not followed. Before adding this section, check lease laws in your area, and perhaps also make note of tenants’ rights in the event of continuous unpaid rent.
If there are any other late rent issues outlined in the lease agreement, such as additional charges for unpaid rent past 10 days (half to one-third of the way through the month), then these should be noted in the late rent notice as well.
You may wish to speak with your tenant in person regarding late rent notices, especially if you have a good relationship with them. Oral late rent notices are, in most states, just as legally binding as written ones, but if you have more than one problem with a tenant paying rent on time, consider keeping a written record of when and how you informed them. Written late rent notices are the best paper trail for everyone in the event of a possible eviction, but you should also speak with your tenants in person or over the phone if necessary. Give them an opportunity to explain and pay the requested amount.