Timely payment is the cornerstone of the landlord/tenant relationship. Both parties make certain promises and representations when a lease is signed, the most significant of which is the rent will be paid as promised and without demand. Some tenants feel landlords are relatively wealthy and a late payment here or there has little impact.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as most landlords have a single home they rent and commit to service the mortgage debt independent of the lease. When rent is late, the landlord has to suddenly make a sizeable payment unexpectedly, which usually has an immediate negative effect on their financial situation.
Most leases are constructed for rent to be due on the first calendar day of the month, with a typical grace period of 3-5 days before it’s considered late. This is a throwback to the time when most payments were mailed. It’s largely irrelevant with electronic payment being the method of choice for the majority of tenants now. Nevertheless, having some grace period is an accepted practice and makes the landlord appear more flexible should a delinquency issue culminate in legal action.
If rent is past due in Virginia, the first step is to issue a late payment notice or, “Notice of material non-compliance,” to the tenant. This notice should, at a minimum, state the amount(s) due, type (rent vs. late fees, etc…) and period (June rent, July rent, etc…), broken down, so the tenant is fully advised of the nature of the total due.
The language in the body of the notice should reference the code section applicable to late payment and additional action(s), as well as the next step if payment isn't made within the period prescribed by the late payment notice.
Certain protections are afforded military members under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, so it’s also advisable to indicate whether the tenant is a military member.
The landlord can initiate legal action to obtain a judgment for the amount(s) due and possession of the property (eviction), if the tenant fails to pay by the expiration of the late notice payment period, typically five days. It’s advisable to engage an attorney to ensure the best possibility of securing the desired outcome, but a landlord may represent himself in the action if desired.
If some or all of the outstanding balance remains unpaid on the hearing date, the landlord will seek judgment and possession.
Or, if the tenant pays all amounts due in full before the hearing date, they have an automatic right of redemption under the law, meaning the lease cannot be terminated and the landlord cannot win possession of the rental unit.
The final step in the process is the removal of the tenant from possession, which is best done by encouraging them to move on their own. In the worst cases, the landlord or property manager will meet with a sheriff to change locks and remove any persons in the property, thereby barring the now former tenant from possession. Subsequently, any personal property in the rental unit must be removed and disposed of, as well as any cleanup and turnover maintenance needed to prepare the unit for new occupants.
This is a very abbreviated overview of the process. A professional property manager knows how to deal with slow paying tenants and how to proceed in the most efficient manner when the situation becomes untenable. An experienced property manager can be an indispensable business partner when issues arise.
If you own rental property, having a professional manager in your corner can be a great asset. Let the property managers at The Real Estate Group show you how worry-free it can be to own investment property. Contact us at (757) 512-7225 or on our website, at our complete Property Management portal.