Landlord / Tenant Q&A: LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, RMP
LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, RMP
Property Profi les, Inc.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. I had an accident and my older car was demolished. My insurance didn’t cover enough for a new vehicle so I had to bite the bullet and get another one. I had to put down a pretty good deposit and now don’t have enough to pay for next month’s rent. I know my landlord will charge me a late fee for next month but I’m not even sure I can pay the full rent for the following month either. What are my options? I don’t want to get kicked out of my rental.
A. This is a tough situation and the outcome will be determined on the steps you take now.
First of all you have to be upfront with your landlord. Let him know what happened and that you are in a financial bind right now. Try to negotiate with your landlord and set up some kind of a payment schedule that will work for both of you.
If you have been a good and reliable tenant, then your landlord will probably be willing to work with you. The process of eviction and putting in a new tenant is an expensive proposition and one that your landlord will want to avoid if at all possible. Of course this is all based on whether the landlord has the financial ability to work with you.
First of all you should ask your landlord in writing for some extra time to make the rental payment. If you can come up with a schedule – such as making a partial payment on the first of the month and an additional payment on the 15th – then at least your landlord will be assured that he will be able to receive at least some of the rent that is due. Once you make a schedule like this be sure that you stick to it. Don’t be even one day late!
Any payment schedule that you devise should have you getting the landlord all his rents at the earliest possible time. Even if it takes 2 or 3 months to accomplish make every effort to get him paid as soon as possible.
Expect to pay the late fee. As of November 1, 2017 the law was changed to limit the amount of the late fee to no more than 8%. So depending on your contract you can at least factor in no more than an 8% late fee in addition to the rents that are due.
Remember, it’s likely that your landlord is counting on your timely rent payment to cover his own mortgage. His bank won’t forgive him if he is late with his mortgage payment and therefore is depending on your payment to help him with his own obligation. This can have a domino effect if your payment schedule isn’t adhered to.
Whatever you do don’t send a check that you know will bounce. Nothing infuriates a landlord more than dealing with a tenant who knowingly submits a bad check or “forgets” to sign the check. Receiving a check that isn’t negotiable is the same as not paying any rent at all – and it is against the law. The landlord is within his rights to charge you the late fee as well as a bounced check fee. The fee has be to reasonable – say the amount that the bank charges him – but it should be on your lease (or communicated to your orally) as to what that amount is.
In the future you should work on establishing an emergency cash fund that will cover you for 3 or 4 months. That way you won’t be put in this position again and you will protect your home, your assets and your credit.