Paying your rent on time is one of the basic tenets of adulthood, but sometimes unexpected things pop up that can temporarily derail you. Whether you just got laid off from your job, you were in a car accident and your insurance deductible shot up, or you had to lend a family member some cash to get out of a jam, there are all kinds of ways that your bank account can get off-track right before rent is due.
It’s easy to sit there and just wait for the consequences of paying your rent late to happen, but being proactive in this not-so-ideal situation is the best thing you can do for yourself. If you have to pay your rent late, don’t panic — there are steps you can take to fix the situation without getting into legal or financial trouble.
Here’s what to do when you need to pay your rent late:
Whatever You Do, Don’t Ignore the Problem
Not being able to pay your rent can (understandably) make you feel down in the dumps. It’s stressful, and it can make you feel shameful and out of control. Although it might be easy to hide underneath the covers and wait for the consequences, this is actually the worst thing you can do.
You might think that your landlord won’t notice you slipping them the check a week late, but this is very unlikely to work. The landlord has to receive your rent check in order to pay the mortgage on the property. Trust us — they will notice. And when your landlord notices that your rent check is missing, they will come knocking on your door or start calling you repeatedly on the phone until you can pay. You definitely want to avoid that, which is why it’s always best to be proactive when you know you’re going to be late with your rent.
Don’t Write a Check that You Know Will Bounce
If you’re only fairly certain that the funds will be in your bank account by the time your landlord cashes your check, it’s probably best not to chance it. There’s nothing that your landlord hates more than getting a bad check, so it’s always better to be upfront and honest about not having the funds than it is to be sneaky.
Plus, putting in a bad rent check is not going to help you avoid a late fee. Just because you give your landlord the check on the first of the month does not mean that you’ve technically paid your rent on time. You actually have to have the funds available for the check to go through.
Negotiate with Your Landlord
If you’ve been renting with your landlord for a while without ever missing a payment, it’s likely that you’re in pretty good standing with them. Just as soon as you know you’re going to be late on your rent, approach them about the subject. The sooner you can do this, the better.
Write them a letter or an e-mail asking them if you can arrange a payment plan or some kind of partial payment for next month’s rent. When you ask your landlord for an extension on your rent, be sure to give them the reasoning behind it. If you have had to pay for unexpected repairs on your car or you’ve lost your job, provide them with any kind of documentation that shows you’re not just being irresponsible (such as a termination notice, a claim from your insurance company, etc). Let them know what your exact plan is, whether it’s a partial payment or that you’ll have the rent money by a certain date, by writing it down in your letter.
If you’re early enough in letting them know and provide good documentation that shows you’re telling the truth, your landlord will likely agree to letting you pay your rent a bit late. However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be a late fee that’s charged on top of the rent. In other words, be prepared to pay a little extra on top of what you already owe.
Get Your Agreement in Writing
If you and your landlord come to an agreement on paying your rent late or handing in a partial payment, be sure to get your agreement in writing. That way if your landlord decides to serve you with eviction papers after all, you can present your agreement in a legal setting if necessary.
What to Do If It’s More than Just Temporary Hardship
If your financial situation has changed drastically and you can no longer afford your rent, you may need more than just an extension. Talk to your landlord about whether or not it would be possible to get someone else to take over your lease, or whether or not it’s allowed for you to sublet it.
Whatever you do, don’t just suffer in silence alone!