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When Renters Don't Pay, Use These Tips to Boost Rent Collection

A variety of people have missed their rent recently due to the fact that they feel they cannot make ends meet; with millions of people out of work involuntarily, it's not surprising. The beginning of a significant economic upheaval is difficult for many people, and making choices for how and when to pay bills isn't easy. However, as a rental property manager, Charleston landlords, we know how crucial it is for property owners in our area to collect rent each month.

While acknowledging this situation and having empathy is vital, there are also many people who are continuing to work and can still make their rent payments. The key to your rent collection efforts is to recognize that your tenants entered an agreement—but that you also want to retain them as renters if this downturn is just a blip in an otherwise excellent record. When your tenants miss rent, here are some ways to move forward from the perspective of a property management professional.

Business man showing his empty pockets

Keep in mind: These suggestions are just that—suggestions. They do not act as a suitable substitute for sound legal advice. If you're in dire need of direct action and assistance, get in touch with a professional attorney or your rental property manager (Charleston, SC).

Document All Interactions

Whether you save emails or write notes after a call, it is critical to document any interactions. For instance, a payment that doesn't go through might result in diplomatic outreach, asking if there's been a delay, and for information on when the rent will be coming in.

If the tenants say they cannot pay—or that they are going to need a certain amount of time—keep that information written down and clear. The difference between a tenant who is temporarily out of luck versus someone taking advantage of you is often related to how much they change their mind on when they will pay you.

A written record also helps you keep track of the agreements you make. Email should be your preferred method of communication during this time for that reason. However, any official plans should always be put in writing with an addition to the lease agreement: "I promise" is not enforceable if you end up needing to appear in court.

Recognize the Difference Between Compassion and Pushover

Connected to your documentation is the need to be both compassionate and not a pushover. For every tenant who genuinely is out of work and hasn't received some form of unemployment yet, there may also be a "Professional Tenant" who wants to take advantage of the chaos of the current world pandemic and try to get a month—or two, or three—of free rent. 

  • One of the best ways to learn more about the situation is to ask your renter what sort of payments they can commit to.
  • This means figuring out when they think they'll be back at work, what they've heard about unemployment benefit arrivals, etc. Work with them for actual dates when you can expect the rent again.
  • If they say they can get you partial rent now, write up a suggested payment for now and then how you can add small amounts to future rent payments in a way that won't overwhelm your residents.

Work With Your Renters as Much as Possible

As a rental property manager, Charleston, we often find that people just need to be heard. Part of the reason to let your renters work with you on their repayment parameters is that landlords really benefit from long-term tenants. It costs money and time to find new renters (especially during a crisis), so if you can buy some goodwill through collaboration, it's well worth doing so.

Young couple in bed with laptop being sad, Quarantine or stay home

Along the way, you can document whether the tenant is coming through with what they say they can do—or if their story keeps changing about where and when the money will come. The former is the sign of a reliable renter—the latter means you  might have a Professional Tenant on your hands. Dealing with Professional Tenants usually only leads to one conclusion.

When It's Allowed, Evict If Needed

As a rental property manager, Charleston, we know that you may not always have the ability to evict a renter who has kept you on the hook. While eviction should always be your last resort, we also know that it's occasionally a necessary one. However, until you are able to actually pursue the eviction process, it's valuable to keep documenting every interaction between you and your renters. The majority of your residents are not trying to "dodge rent" and are probably feeling seriously concerned right now about what the future may hold.

We find that with the right extension of payment terms and tone, most renters are grateful to hear something from their landlord about having time to pay—but not because they never intend on paying.

Your Rental Property Manager, Charleston Landlords, Can Handle It All!

A lot of landlords find the process of gathering rent and occasionally initiating an eviction to be a grueling process—much less attempting to navigate this during a time of crisis. Experienced property managers keep track of the best ways to collect rent and communicate with your renters. They take that work off of landlords' shoulders.

If you've been handling your own rental management, seriously consider whether hiring a property manager now would be a good way to proceed with the uncharted territory that many landlords are about to find themselves in moving into May and June.

We recommend that DIY property owners get started on preparing now by download our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook. This will give you some of the insight you need to pursue this sensitive topic from a place of professionalism and compassion.

Download Guide

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