When tenants pay rent late or miss payments, the landlord’s options are to file for an eviction, to collect a late fee if agreed to under the lease, or to raise the rent. Usually, eviction proceedings are started with a “Notice To Quit,” which is a warning to the tenant that they may be evicted if they do not pay rent or pay for damages. Some states require this, and some even require multiple notices to quit before a landlord can evict a tenant. Nearly any other approach to evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent is illegal.
Proper Rent Collection Procedure
The proper way for a landlord to handle a non-paying tenant is to follow eviction procedures. To avoid the cost of the procedure, landlords often speak to the tenant first and work out a payment plan. For example, a tenant’s company may have failed to deliver their check on time, and the landlord may agree that the tenant can pay ten days late. If it’s included in the lease, the landlord may charge late fees for rent, subject to local regulations (there are often strict limits on how much a landlord may charge).
If it’s clear the tenant cannot pay rent, the landlord should start an eviction proceeding. This requires a court filing, proper notices (i.e., a Notice To Quit), and ultimately results in the city police evacuating the tenant from the apartment, not the landlord.
Tenants should keep documentation of anything the landlord does to harass them into paying the rent. Tenants can use this documentation to defend themselves if the landlord takes them to court, they can initiate a court proceeding, or they can use the documentation for filing a complaint with the local government. Some states and cities offer thousands in financial damages to the tenant if the landlord harasses the tenant to force them to move out.
It’s a crime in nearly every jurisdiction for a landlord to physically move the tenant or their belongings, attempt to do so, or threaten such actions. Even once the tenant is evicted, the city manages the forcible removal of tenants, not the landlord.
Threats, Intimidation, or Creating a Nuisance
A landlord cannot threaten tenants to leave the apartment. Physically blocking the exits, threatening long-term financial damages or revenge, laying their hands on the tenant, or causing noise or other obstructions to the enjoyment of the property are all considered harassment. Purposefully starting construction near the tenant’s apartment to influence them to move is considered harassment.
Landlord Entering Without Permission
Some landlords (wrongly) attempt to physically evict the tenant themselves. However, nearly every state prevents landlords from entering a tenant’s apartment except to fix major issues or to show the apartment to other tenants. The landlord must give notice and enter only at reasonable times for those reasons. Additionally, the landlord may be liable under criminal laws for burglary or battery.
Stopping Repairs or Utilities
A landlord cannot neglect their duty to repair issues in the apartment or shut off access to core utilities. However, it’s unclear whether a landlord may legally remove a tenant from a property management system (where tenants can report problems online).
Landlords often mistakenly believe that the amenities provided to tenants is a privilege that can be revoked at any time. Preventing an individual tenant’s access to a pool or gym, for example, is considered harassment. Anything that is explicitly or implicitly included in the lease is typically off limits. The rules may vary by jurisdiction.
Landlords may be frustrated with the time and effort it takes to evict. However, posting phony eviction notices is illegal and considered harassment.
State and Local Laws
Laws differ heavily by state, county, and city. Use RenterPeace to see more specific laws for to a given apartment and to see comments from people in your area.
Documenting the Problem
For most problems, tenants should document their issues, notify their landlord (document this too!), and stay informed about their rights. Renterpeace is a free website that helps with each step of this process. Tenants use RenterPeace to more easily see applicable laws, track their problems, and much more. There's a reason RenterPeace was selected "Best of" legal apps for both Android and iOS. It also includes household management tools, like a chore manager and bill tracker. Try it - you don't even to login first.
Using Property Management
To stay updated and organized about the problems in their apartments, landlords should use a property management system. Many are expensive or have high setup fees, but using RenterPeace for landlords is free. It's complete with legal compliance tips targeted to their problems, maintenance tracking, tenant screening, money-saving grant information, and tenant chat. It makes managing properties easier and staying updated about status of rental properties a breeze. Try it today.