Tuesday

What to Do When You Have Problems Paying Rent

A situation has occurred in your life that has left you almost penniless. You thought by the time rent was due you would be able to pay it, but unfortunately you don't have the money. What do you do when you can't pay the rent?

The biggest mistake apartment renters make when they are in this position is to not let the apartment manager know as soon as it happens. Waiting until days before the rent is due will only add more misery to your situation. Apartment managers need time to accommodate you and if they don't have the time, it makes it even harder for you to get what you want. The time they need is important depending on what they are willing to negotiate with you. They may want to advertise the apartment, move someone else in who may be on a waiting list or any number of other reasons. There are also company policies for when a tenant gives notice to move out.

Let's say you found out your job will be dismissing employees in March, and you may be one of the people they let go, besides looking for a job, you should be checking your lease. Somewhere in your rental contract should be information on what will happen if you can't pay your rent or if it is late.

Some rental agreements may allow you to be dismissed from the contract if you receive a new job 100 miles away, have to leave due to military duties or if the primary lease holder leaves the apartment. Know what your lease says, before you visit the manager's office. Also, check to see what are the penalties if you are late with rent? Not paying on time might lead to a negative on your credit report, late fees and even an eviction. Find out how much more you will have to pay each day that it is late. How long do you have to pay the balance? Can you arrange a payment plan with management? Be prepared to discuss these questions with the apartment manager as soon as you know you can't pay the rent.

Don't pay rent and late fees with a bounced check. Some landlords will waive (forgive) the late fee if there is a good reason for the rent being late, and if you are a responsible tenant. Paying the rent with a check knowing you have no money in the bank will cause more problems for you. A dishonored or bounced check is charged to the landlord; therefore, he or she will pass on a service charge to you. However, he or she cannot charge you a returned check fee if it is not stated in the lease agreement.

Partial rent payment may be acceptable. You may consider paying part of the rent; yet if you choose to do this, your landlord may accept it and still give you an eviction notice. If the landlord is willing to accept partial rent and provide you with extra time to pay the balance, be sure your agreement is in writing. The written agreement should state the amount of rent you paid, the date due when the rest of the money should be paid, the amount of any late fees, and the landlord's agreement not to evict you if you pay the amount due by that date. Both of you should sign the agreement. This type of agreement is legally binding.

Security deposit can't be used for payment. If you are thinking of using your security deposit to pay the rent, think again. The landlord will not use your security deposit to pay the rent since the deposit is used for damages and repairs to the apartment. Check your lease agreement for details.

Subleasing may be forbidden. Some renters will attempt to move someone else in the suite, not a good idea. Review your lease on subleasing. Most contracts do not allow you to sublet an apartment. Since most companies will do background checks on whose moving in their apartment community, the person you are considering to move in the apartment will have to be checked, their income must be verified and all parties moving in must sign the lease contract just as you did. If management should find out this is what you have done, your relative or friend will be evicted immediately. Your credit rating will be negatively affected and you may have to undergo an appearance in court resulting in more fees to pay. This arrangement is simply not worth it!

Move out notice. If you should decide to move out, whether your lease is for a year or month to month, know you must give proper notice. You will not be released from either type of contract if you are planning to move out without giving proper notice. The notice should be at least 30 days before you move. Some apartment managers may allow you to end your term early if they can rent out your apartment quickly given the nature of your problem. Some landlords may end a tenancy early and give you a 30 or 60 day notice if you have lived in the rental unit less than a year, the landlord has contracted to sell the rental unit, or other reasons you will have to check with your state's department of consumer affairs office.

Once you have made an arrangement with the landlord to move out, you will have to be sure the entire apartment is clean in order to receive your security deposit. However, the landlord may keep it, so be sure you ask whether moving out early will affect receiving your security deposit. If it doesn't and you are still entitled to get it, be sure all nail holes in walls are filled, damages repaired, leaks are reported to maintenance and appliances work, light bulbs are not blown out in fixtures, and the carpet is cleaned professionally with a receipt of proof given to the management. If you are planning to use the deposit for another apartment, consider this, your security deposit will not come to you the same day you move out you will have to wait at least a month before it is returned to you.

In summary, your best option when you know you can't pay the rent is to review the lease, know the tenant's rights in your state, and notify the landlord as soon as it happens and hopefully he or she will be able to accept a payment arrangement or allow you to break your lease without penalty.

By N. McGuire

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Over 20 years office work experience, six years completed college coursework, background in print media and communications, recognized for exceptional attendance and received merit increase for past job performance, self-published author and part-time entrepreneur, Internet marketing and social media experience. Interned for non-profit organization, women's group and community service business. Additional experience: teaching/training others, customer service and sales. Learn more at Nicholl McGuire and Nicholl McGuire Media