Unpaid rent happens — but it doesn’t have to happen often.
Collecting unpaid rent from a former tenant is never fun, and it’s often avoidable. Sure, sometimes people skip out on rent during their lease term or for that last month before their contract ends. But at LEAP we’ve kept our delinquency rate to less than 1%.
How? Well, it’s a combination of an unwavering screening process, clear expectations, and consistent follow-through. Here’s how we do it.
Thorough Tenant Screening
We don’t compromise on our screening process. The most important part of filling a vacancy is tenant screening. See, the problem of unpaid rent stems directly from the tenant. So the best way to prevent it is to put qualified people in the property.
Sure, sometimes these people have financial trouble. But qualified tenants are better at communicating if an issue comes up. They may call and say, “I’m having issues and can’t afford rent. Get me out of here!” If they open the line of communication, we can work together to find a solution. It’s not that qualified tenants never have financial issues; it’s that they’re cooperative if they do.
At LEAP, rent is due on the first of the month, and it’s late on the fourth. If we don’t have it on the fifth, we immediately send the tenant a certified letter — a three-day notice to vacate. It’s a strongly worded notice that gives them three days to pay in full with certified funds before we start the eviction process.
Based on our experience, this works. We used to call them and ask what was going on if we didn’t get their rent. They’d give us a reason, we’d give them extra time. Then they’d give us another reason later. It just didn’t work.
However, with clear expectations of a non-negotiable rent, people pay. They know they’ll see a three-day notice to vacate if they don’t. So they’ll think twice before they spend money on something else first. People usually have some money, but they’re choosing what to pay based on expectations and consequences. So, if they know one company won’t call them for a few days, they’ll use the money on a more pressing bill.
Since we consistently follow our procedures for collecting rent and enforce our terms of non-payment, most people find a way to pay.
But What If They Don’t Pay?
The longer the delay in payment, the more likely the case will go to court. If you give them extra time or set up a way for someone to pay half now, half later, you actually increase the chance of eviction. Once a situation moves to the eviction process or small claims court, it’s much more difficult to get the money. The renter's bills are just adding up, and the more you let them get behind, the less able they are to pay.
But when you hold them to a timeline, they either figure out how to pay or move out so you can fill your vacancy with someone who will pay.
Unpaid rent shouldn’t happen often. But when it does, be ready to enforce the terms of your lease for the good of both yourself and the tenant. And if you don’t want to handle this process, give us a call and let the pros at LEAP Property Management handle it for you.