Paying your rent late is never ideal. But if you handle the situation responsibly, you can stay on good terms with your landlord. If possible, inform your landlord well in advance. And outline the steps you’re taking to ensure it’s a one-time occurrence. Done right, you can stay on your landlord’s good side, and maybe even avoid paying late fees.
In this article, we’ll go over how to communicate your way through this stressful situation to arrive at the best outcome possible.
Give your landlord notice well ahead of time
If you anticipate that you won’t be able to make your rent payment on time, let your landlord know with as much notice as possible.
In most cases, your rent goes directly towards the expenses of owning and maintaining the property. As a result, your failure to pay could put your landlord in a tricky financial situation.
Whatever the case, providing plenty of warning is courteous and allows both you and your landlord time to resolve any contingent issues. As a result, there’s a better chance that your landlord will be flexible and understanding regarding your inability to pay on time.
And, if it turns out that you can pay on time after all, your landlord will appreciate having received a heads up about the uncertainty.
Put it in writing
All communication regarding your rent payment should be in writing. A written notice, even just an email, is more professional and courteous than a text or voicemail message.
Plus, this way, both you and your landlord will have a record of your conversation regarding the issue and can refer back to it if needed.
Focus on solutions rather than excuses
Your message should include a justification for your late rent, but don’t write a sob story to your landlord. The goal is not to receive sympathy but to offer context so your landlord can understand your situation.
For instance, paying late because you lost your job is a very different scenario than going on vacation and forgetting to mail a check. The more information you give, the better the landlord can understand the situation. Your goal is to stay on good terms with your landlord, and being honest about your situation will help maintain their trust.
Instead of focusing your excuse, suggest a solution to the problem. Offer to pay part of the rent, or propose a timeline or payment plan for getting caught up.
You mighteven offer to provide services in exchange for a rent reduction. This could be anything from helping with maintenance or gardening duties around the property, assisting with bookkeeping, photographing empty units for ads, or any other service your landlord might find useful.
Showing that you’ve taken the time to think this problem through is a gesture of good faith. It saves your landlord the trouble of developing a payment plan for you, which will help you stay in his good graces.
Outline the steps you are taking to ensure this problem doesn’t reoccur
To put your landlord at ease, outline the steps you are taking to ensure that you don’t pay late again next month. If you show that you are proactive, your landlord will be much more likely to be flexible about your late payment, especially if it’s the first time you’ve been in this situation.
If you’re newly unemployed, highlight the steps you’re taking to bring in money. Mention if you have interviews lined up, consulting gigs, or unemployment benefits that will help you make your rent payment on time next month. Any information or reassurance you can provide that shows that you are on top of this problem will be reassuring.
If your late payment is due to a personal error, outline how you’ll prevent it from happening again. It could be as simple as setting a reminder to put your check in the mail or setting up an automatic monthly transfer to your landlord’s bank account. Whatever you’re doing, mention it in your message to the landlord.
Informing your landlord that the rent will be late and then ceasing communication is a huge red flag.
If you want to stay on your landlord’s good side, remain communicative while working to catch up on your rent payment. This situation can be stressful for everyone involved, and you’ll both be less worried if you have an open line of dialogue.
Email templates to use
Use the following template letters to craft a professional and thoughtful notice to your landlord regarding your late rent payment. Remember, keep your message concise and to the point and provide a timeline for when full payment will be in your landlord’s hands.
Template 1: Late payment due to personal error
Dear [Landlord’s Name],
I’m writing to inform you that my rent payment will be late this month. I had to go out of town unexpectedly due to a family emergency, and I forgot to put a check in the mail before I left.
I had a friend of mine send a check via priority mail this morning. It should reach you within three business days.
I’m deeply sorry for any inconvenience. I will send you a set of post-dated checks as soon as I’m back home next week so that this never happens again.
Template 2: Late payment due to financial hardship
Dear [Landlord’s Name],
I’m writing to inform you that my rent payment will be late this month.
I was recently laid off from my job and won’t be able to make the payment on time. I have applied for unemployment benefits, but it may take up to 2 weeks before I receive my first payment.
I can pay $500 on the due date, and I will pay the remainder of the rent as soon as I receive my first unemployment check. I’ve also picked up some freelancing gigs and am actively interviewing for new jobs to avoid this problem next month.
Please let me know if this payment plan will work for you.
I understand that my late payment may have negative repercussions on your financial situation, and I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. I’m working diligently to ensure this never happens again.
Template 3: Late payment due to Coronavirus financial hardship
Dear [Landlord’s Name],
I’m wondering if it would be possible to work out a payment plan for this month’s rent.
I have recently been furloughed from my job due to COVID-19, and I won’t be able to pay the rent in full by the due date.
I have applied for unemployment benefits and I am looking for online consulting gigs to ensure I can pay on time next month.
Additionally, my employer has promised to rehire me as soon as we are through the COVID-19 situation. While I don’t know when that will be, I can assure you that my unemployment situation is temporary.
Please let me know if there is any possibility of working out a payment plan. I’m keen to make this work for both of us.
Template 4: Write your own
You’ll notice that the above examples all follow a general pattern. If you’re more willing to fill in the blanks, you can use this general template to come up with your own letter to the landlord:
Dear [Landlord’s name]:
[Paragraph 1: Tell them the rent will be late.]
[Paragraph 2: Tell them why rent will be late – don’t linger on this point.]
[Paragraph 3: Tell them what steps you’re taking to moving forward.]
[Paragraph 4: Apologize and sign off.]
What About Grace Periods?
Many leases include grace periods, in which you might have a few extra days to pay the rent. If you’re paying the rent late, but within the grace period, you might not need to worry so much about explaining things to your landlord.
But you should keep in mind that paying within the grace period is still technically paying the rent late. That’s usually not a big deal if it’s a one-off thing. But if you’re paying the rent late every month, your landlord might get frustrated and take action, such as by not renewing your leace.
What to do if your landlord doesn’t agree to your terms
Be prepared for your landlord to propose different terms than what you outlined in your message.
Remember, landlords often have to allocate rent payments to mortgages, taxes, maintenance costs, and any other myriad of expenses related to owning property. Even your landlord wants to be accommodating, he may not be able to.
Your landlord may request that your payment installments are closer together than you proposed, or he may impose a late payment fee. Don’t be afraid to negotiate these items a little bit. If you can’t quite meet his terms, propose another alternative. Be creative.
It’s unlikely that your landlord will evict you over one late payment. As long as you remain communicative and demonstrate that you’re willing to work with him you should both be able to come to an agreement.
For more information, see our complete guide on Paying the Rent Late.