What to Do if Your Tenant Isn’t Paying Rent | San Leandro Landlord Advice

Today, we’re talking about what is probably one of your worst fears as a landlord. You may have a tenant who is paying rent late, and it’s only getting later. They don’t say anything or explain anything, and you don’t know what to do when it doesn’t come in on time.

This is not a unique situation, and 99 percent of the time, you can work it out amicably.

Remember that even though this is your house, you have no legal right to go over there and demand that they get out. It’s crucial that you follow the laws. In California, we have strict and structured regulations on the eviction process.

Continue to Communicate

The first thing you’re going to want to do is continue to communicate. Tenants may cage up and stop returning your phone calls. They might stop answering the door, and I would caution you to not go by the house too much. That will breach their right to quiet enjoyment, so don’t go there in person. If you have a temper or you’re prone to saying something you might regret, keep to the phone, or even better, put everything in writing. It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.

Continue trying to communicate. Maybe something happened with the tenant’s work hours, or they had car trouble or a big expense, and they think their best option is to just go quiet. Leave a message or send an email. Give them a call, and say that they have been great tenants, and you understand that things happen, but you need to know when you can expect rent to be paid. This almost always works. Keep the relationship working and the communication open.

Remain Professional

Avoid trouble, and keep things from getting hostile. Most of the time, tenants end up paying, so don’t make a permanent problem of your relationship with your tenant. You may just need to hear their side of the story.

Getting Legal Assistance

People often ask when they need to call a lawyer. If you’re like most of our clients, you don’t have a million houses, and you’ve heard horror stories about evicting tenants. Some, unfortunately, are true. You don’t want to spend a thousand dollars on a lawyer to tell you what you can do on your own. But, it’s never too early to get a lawyer involved, especially once it’s time to serve a Three Day Notice.

If you’ve done this before and you’re confident in what you can do, and you don’t mind going to court, you can probably wait to hire a lawyer. But, I would caution you that there are a million little details that you need to get right. If you don’t get those details right, your Three Day Notice can be tossed out, and you’ll have to start all over. You won’t find that out until it’s too late.

As an example, I made a mistake one of the only times I dealt with a Section 8 tenant. A 90-Day Notice to vacate was required, and I sent in the notice. I put in that the tenants needed to vacate in 90 days, but I did not put that they needed to vacate in 90 days, on August 21. Thankfully, it was only a couple of days before my notice was rejected and I had to reissue it. But, I did lose those couple of days.

Everyone loves Google, but Google is not a lawyer. So be careful, and get a lawyer if you need to serve a Three Day Notice. Once you issue that notice, your tenants will usually find the money they need to catch up with rent. It’s a miracle. If you issue the Three Day Notice and the tenant wants to make a partial payment, don’t accept it. If you take even $5, and they don’t end up paying you in full, you’ll have to start over if you want to evict. This is why it’s wise to have a lawyer involved.

This is not legal advice; it’s just my personal experience. I like to say that good judgment comes from experience and experience usually comes from bad judgment. I have plenty of that to learn from.

Keep things open and friendly if you can. Make sure your tenants know this isn’t an ultimatum. Let them know you want to keep them, but find a way to get the rent caught up.

After the Three Day Notice, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer, which is a legal term for eviction. At that point, you absolutely must get a lawyer involved.

Contact us at Civitas Property Management if you have any questions or need a referral to an attorney.