Paying your rent late each month could lead to disastrous results. You might have to pay late fees on top of your rent, or in the worst case scenario, get evicted and lose your apartment.
It’s just like what happens if you pay your car loan late each month – you could lose your car through repossession. I know because my car was once repossessed from paying my loan late every month.
Read on to learn what can happen if you habitually pay the rent late, so you can fully understand the risks of paying the rent late each month.
Paying Within the Grace Period
Many landlords give tenants a grace period in case they can’t get the rent in on time. A grace period is usually for a few days past the due date. So instead of charging you a late fee when you’re only one or two days late, many landlords won’t start charging a late fee until you’ve missed the deadline for the grace period.
But there are often misunderstandings about grace periods. In fact, a grace period misunderstanding happened to me as well.
I once had a tenant who always paid rent on the last day of the grace period. I didn’t really like that practice because rent for my properties is due on the first of the month, not the last day of the grace period. So when I brought this up with my tenant, they told me they figured rent was really due on the last day of the grace period. I explained that the grace period is an exception to the rule, to be used only rarely, if at all, and is offered as a courtesy. After we got on the same page as to what the grace period meant and when rent was really due, everything was fine.
What’s the Late Fee For, Anyway?
You might have a late fee policy in your lease, which could lead you to believe that paying late is an acceptable practice. And while it’s probably true that receiving rent late might be acceptable to a landlord on occasion, most landlords prefer to receive the rent on time. My lease, for example, states the following:
Tenant will pay landlord a late charge if tenant fails to pay the rent in full within three days after the date it is due. The late charge will be $50, plus $5 for each additional day that the rent continues to be unpaid. The total late charge for any one month will not exceed $75. Landlord does not waive the right to insist on payment of the rent in full on the date it is due.
Let’s break down the language in my lease:
If rent is due on the first of the month, there is no late charge if the tenant pays on the first, second, third, or fourth of the month. But if the tenant doesn’t pay rent by then, here is what they would owe under my lease:
- The fifth of the month: an extra $50
- The sixth of the month: an extra $55
- The seventh of the month: an extra $60
- The eighth of the month: an extra $65
- The ninth of the month: an extra $70
- The tenth of the month: an extra $75
If the tenant still hasn’t paid by the eleventh day of the month, I will plan to start eviction proceedings unless we have worked something out.
Note that some states cap how much landlords can charge in late fees, so make sure you know the law for your state so that your landlord doesn’t charge you more than what’s allowed.
But what does that last line in my lease mean: Landlord does not waive the right to insist on payment of the rent in full on the date it is due?
This means that although a landlord might give their tenants a grace period and then some extra time beyond that to get the rent in with late charges, the landlord does not have to allow this.
Most landlords who offer a grace period and late charges option won’t evict a tenant the first time they are late. But if paying late becomes a habit, the landlord might get tired of hounding that tenant for rent — and waiting to pay their own bills until their tenant finally gets around to paying rent. If late payments continue, a landlord might say, “Enough,” and give an eviction notice the next time that tenant is even one day late, and that lease clause makes that action permissible.
Just like what happened with my car — the finance company being fed up with my constant late payments and taking my car one day — can happen with a rental house or apartment. You don’t want to let your rental situation get so bad that you get an eviction notice.
It’s Less Likely for Your Lease to Be Renewed
Even if your landlord doesn’t evict you if you pay the rent late every month, they might not be too keen on offering you another lease. If you pay the rent late every month, and every month the landlord needs to remind you to pay rent, your landlord is probably not too happy with you.
Ideally, you should be the one to call the shots on whether you stay or go. You don’t want to be forced to move after your lease is up if you want to stay. Think about the hassle and expense of moving that could have been avoided simply by paying the rent on time.
Why You Pay Late Each Month
Although your landlord probably doesn’t care why you are late each month (they really just want their rent), you should understand why you’re late all the time. Are you just careless or forgetful? Or is it because you don’t have the money?
Either way, you could try to change things. If you’re careless or forgetful, you could calendar the rent payment to help you remember. If you don’t have the money, you could try to take on another job, or work out a budget that leaves you enough money to pay the rent at the end of the month.
Another Alternative: Flex
There is another alternative if you’re paying the rent late each month: Flex offers its users a better way to pay the rent.
Flex is a rent payment service that pays your rent for you, typically on the first of every month. And then you pay Flex back during the month on a schedule you choose. Flex fees start at $14.99 a month, which can be significantly less than paying late fees every month, not to mention that you will stay on your landlord’s good side by making sure they get their rent on time month after month. Flex puts you in the driver’s seat with your landlord.
The Bottom Line
It’s never a good idea to pay any bill late, especially if this becomes the norm. And when it comes to the place you call home, you don’t want to be kicked out. By staying on good terms with your landlord, you should have no problem getting a lease renewal offer. And when you do, you can take it or leave it. And that is a good position to be in.
For more information, see our full guide on Paying the Rent Late.