Your tenant is behind on rent and you’re left wondering how exactly to handle a late rent notice.
Nothing strains a relationship quite like someone owing you money.
In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about late paying tenants and how to properly serve them a late rent notice.
A table of contents for late rent notice:
- What is a late rent notice?
- Late rent notice template
- 3 Day Pay or Quit Notice
- Which notice should I use and how do I deliver it?
- Standard late fee for rent
- How many months late on rent before eviction?
- FAQs on late rent
You can click any of the links above to jump to that topic on this post.
Below we’ve also included a downloadable list of notices you can use. We’ll explain how to use these in the video you’ll see further down this post.
A list of late fee notices AND pay or quit notices:
- Late rent notice
- 3 Day Notice to Quit – All States Except CA
- 3 Day Notice to Quit CA only
- 5 Day Notice to Quit – All States Except CA
- 5 Day Notice to Quit CA Only
A late rent notice is an official document that notifies the tenant that they are late of rent. The late rent notice clearly communicates that the tenant is late on rent (according to the rules laid out in your lease) and formally informs the tenants of next steps.
Your late rent notice should detail how much is due, any fees that will be incurred and when rent is due.
A late rent notice is also called a “Pay or Quit” notice or a “Pay Rent or Quit Notice.” These should always be served before an eviction notice.
Your late rent notice should include all the following:
- Rental address
- Tenant name(s)
- Language explaining that rent is late and how much is due
- When fees will be incurred by
- Acceptable forms of payment
- Landlord signature
We have a late rent notice PDF available here.
Here’s is what that PDF looks like a late rent notice template
Notice of Past Due Rent
Date: ____ /____/____
Rental Address: ____________________________________________
Tenant Name: __________________________________
This notice is to inform you that your payment for te month ________ in the amount of $_____________ has not yet been received and is now considered past due.
If the rent is not received by __________, a late fee of $___________ will be applied.
Rent to be paid by cash, check, or cashier’s check and made payable to _____________.
A “3 day notice to pay or quit” is essentially a more official late rent notice. The name says it all in that you have 3 days to pay or you must quit (be removed from) the rental property. Some states require you to provide a tenant with a warning in the form of a late rent notice before issuing the 3DNPQ.
You want to make sure you follow your local laws when deciding which form to use…
We hold a weekly video series on our Facebook Page called “Ask A Property Manager.”
Andrew Schultz manages over 120 doors in the Buffalo, NY area and he answers questions we receive from our private Facebook group of over 7,000 landlords and property managers.
In episode #35 he walks us through how he explains why he stopped using a late rent notice and started going right to the 3 day notice to pay or quit form.
(the conversation picks up at around the 0:50 mark)
Notes from the video:
Andrew goes directly to the 3 Day Notice to Pay or Quit form.
Some landlords go the route of…
- Late rent notice
- 3 Day Notice to Pay or Quit
- Eviction Notice
Andrew believes that you’re adding an extra step with the late rent notice unless your State requires you to start with that (we’re located in the Buffalo, NY area).
He individually mails a 3 day notice to pay or quit to everyone who is on the lease. You send this certified and first class on top of posting the notice on the door (this is sometimes referred to as “nail and mail”).
If they’re at the point where they have late rent the “3 day notice to pay or quit” will get you moving faster towards collecting rent or proceeding with an eviction.
Wait a full four days before following up with an eviction notice so you’re not caught up in any technicalities on if it was actually a full three days.
Some states such as Texas and New York State require you to charge a “reasonable” amount for late rent fees while other States are more specific.
Florida, says, “A facility or unit owner may charge a tenant a reasonable late fee for each period that he or she does not pay rent due under the rental agreement… For purposes of this subsection, a late fee of $20, or 20 percent of the monthly rent, whichever is greater, is reasonable” (83.808)
This is why it’s important to research your state’s late fee policy.
The following list is items you should consider when charging a late fee in your State:
- When can I legally begin to charge the fee
- Is my late fee policy enforceable if it’s not mentioned in the lease
- How much can I legally charge for late rent
- Does my late fee policy play nice with rent control laws
- Does my State have any sort of grace period for late rent
- Is the tenant withholding rent due to unfinished repairs?
These questions are mostly answered by looking at your lease and reading up on your State laws.
If your lease does not address a late fee policy you cannot charge a late fee. In this instance, you’d want to add an addendum to your lease on what the late fee policy is and have your tenant(s) sign it. Back to the question at hand…
Here’s a screenshot of landlords debating how much to charge for late rent in our private Facebook Group.
This question should be rephrased to how many days late on rent before an eviction.
If your tenant is more than a month behind on rent you need to begin the eviction process.
Landlords can sometimes feel apprehensive about serving a “Pay or Quit Notice” but it’s a necessary step to begin the formal process. An eviction can take months so you don’t want to delay serving a notice.
The “Pay or Quit Notice” lets your tenant know you’re serious about collecting rent and still gives them a specified period of time (3 days in many cases) to pay rent and late fees to avoid an eviction.
If rent is due on the 1st of the month it is late on the second.
Typically you’ll want to serve the “Pay or Quit Notice” on the 2nd and your State will determine the number of days the tenant has to pay or quit. If your tenant does not pay by the specified date they’ll be removed from the property once you go through a formal eviction process.
We recommend Law Depot’s Pay or Quit notices as they are specific to each State’s laws. If you use our link you’ll save 25% on any forms you buy through Law Depot.
Here’s a video screenshot showing how Law Depot will guide you based on your State’s laws.
Can Landlords Charge a Flat Fee for Late Rent?
Many landlords charge a flat fee for late rent and it is often paired with the daily late rent fee. For example, a landlord might have a $50 flat fee if the rent not paid by the 1st of every month and then charge $5 per day until it’s paid.
States that have laws about the maximum late fees that landlords can collect often structure it so the flat fee and the late days combine until they meet the limit. For example, a landlord might charge $45 after the 5th of the month, plus $5 per day until 10% of rent is due because their state law allows just up to 10% of the total rent to be collected as a late fee.
How to serve tenants who pay late
Here’s an outline to follow when serving your tenants. Again, be sure to check with your local laws before beginning this process.
- Rent is due on the first, late on the second, and the tenant should be served with a Pay or Quit notice on the fourth.
- All residents with any amount of rent due are served a three-day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit (NPRQ) form.
- These forms must have the complete, legal name of each and every “ADULT” resident on it, and be accurately filled out. If the forms are not filled out properly, the court will have to start the process over again and this could amount to losing three months rent.
- These forms must be personally handed to an adult, and must never be handed to a person who is 17 years or younger. They can be handed to anyone in the apartment as long as they are 18 years of age or older. It would be best, however, to hand the NPRQ to one of the adults that are listed on the lease. In rare situations, for example, when the resident is out of town, the three-day NPRG can be posted on the door of the apartment.
- When serving the three-day NPRQ, say that you are there to remind them that the rent has not yet been paid, and ask if they have it ready for you. In the event that they do not, have a three-day NPRQ completely filled out, to serve them with. If you have to serve them, just remind them that it is company policy to do so, since their rent is four days past due, and that if they have their rent paid within three days, it will be disregarded.
- Give the tenant a copy of the three-day NPRQ, the original should be filed, as a court will not accept a copy.
- Only accept payments in full once the three-day NPRQ is served. If partial payments are accepted, then the whole process will have to be started again.
- On the fifth day, remind the tenant that if they do not pay, they will then be responsible for legal fees, in addition to the owed rent. Legal fees run at about $175 to bring the account current should they decide to pay before the case goes to court.
- On the sixth day of the month, without fail and without any exceptions, the following data needs to be sent to the main office.
- The original three-day Notice to pay rent or quit (NPRQ).
- The original Declaration of Service (NPRQ and Proof of Service must have identical names and dates).
- Copy of the application (completed at the time of move in).
- A signed copy of the Lease/Rent agreement.
- Indicate any rent increases, if the rent is now higher than the rent stated in the lease/rent agreement. This can be done by including a copy of Rent Raise & Change of Terms.
- Indicate any change of terms in the rental agreement (or include a copy of changes).
- Once you have sent the above paperwork to the home office, the tenant must pay all of the following in order to become current:
- Legal fees
- Late fees incurred
- At this time, do not accept any partial payments, accept only payments in full! If a partial payment is accepted, the whole process must be started over, beginning with the three-day NPRQ. The rental agent is to contact the home office for approval of payment, as legal fees may have already been incurred.
How to handle late rent around the holidays
This can be a tough situation when a tenant asks about paying rent late around the holidays due to increased bills.
Unfortunately, this can lead to a situation of “give an inch they’ll take a mile.”
If you bend your rules with your tenant for special occasions you’re opening yourself up to other future requests. The easiest thing to do with this sort of situation is to inform your tenant of your late fee policy and that it’s important you stick to it.
You should be consistent with the way you screen your tenants and also the way you enforce your policies. If you deviate you could be accused of discrimination in that you may have bent the rules for one tenant and not another.
Stick to your policy. If you may paying rent a non-priority even for one month that’s what it will become… a non-priority.
Should landlords allow a tenant to split rent payments?
Landlords everywhere struggle with collecting the rent money from their tenants. They have also heard just about every excuse for why the rent is late. Sometimes, tenants offer to make split payments for rent, but is this good for landlords?
Before landlords accept split rent payments, there are several things they need to consider. This video helps explain some of the reasons:
The bottom line is that when tenants give excuses for paying the rent late, it should be a warning sign to landlords that they may be looking at months and months of late rent. For most savvy landlords, they don’t allow a tenant to split rent payments.