From a tenant’s point of view, they either have the money to pay the rent or they do not. I usually tell the tenants the same thing that I tell the landlords, which is to realize they are in a rental situation.
Most tenants call and say they did not want to pay the rent because the place is a dump. I would ask if they had a lease. If they said no, then I would tell them to start scraping together their money and work out a deal with the landlord to vacate, and to tell the landlord they would be out by a certain date, because that would at least give the landlord some confidence that he would get back possession and there would be an end to the situation, but they would have to understand they would not be paid any rent for a month or two.
When most landlords call a landlord/tenant attorney like me, I tell them they would have to come in and that my fee would generally be one months’ rent, depending on the house. I tell them that if their tenant told them they would be out by a certain date and if the landlord was comfortable with that and they trusted their tenant, then they should consider whether or not they wanted to come in and pay me to negotiate a deal that I would not be able to get for them much quicker than two months anyway.
The only reason they may want to have me is because I can get a court order, because without a court order, they would not be able to get the sheriff in. A lot of landlords know their tenant, and they would know whether or not their tenant was a liar or whether their tenant was trustworthy enough to know they were going to have to get out on a certain date.
What Does It Mean To Train The Tenant?
This would be very important, and I tell landlords, especially landlords who come to me with 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 months in arrears, that they should have looked at renting their property out as a business. Once a landlord comes to me, they usually become repeat customers, and I tell them that they have to train the tenants that rent comes first, because it really is that simple.
We live in a consumer oriented society where everybody sees the latest phone on TV or a new car, or they want to take a vacation or go have dinner and a lot of other stuff. Landlords tell me all the time that, for example, they rented to the tenant in April but they were late in June. When I ask them how they handled that situation, they tell me that they just told the tenant that they would give them a little bit more time, and the reason they did that was because they were trying to be nice. I have to remind them that this was not the situation where they needed to be a nice person.
This is probably one of the biggest issues with landlords. Most of them are just regular people, they are not business people, and because they are human, they do not want to be seen as being unreasonable. I then have to tell them that they cannot treat tenants that way because if you give the tenant an inch, they will end up taking a mile. I generally tell landlords that they need to train the tenant, and even when they are late with the rent the first time, they need to come in, pay the landlord, and we would serve them with a notice to cure.
Should A Landlord Handle These Cases By Themselves?
The next mistake that the landlords make is that they try to handle these matters themselves. If we think about it psychologically, meaning if someone was my tenant and they were late in paying the rent, then instead of hiring an attorney to do it, I might draw up some weird looking notice to cure and I have my friend Bob serve it to the tenant. Now if the tenant knew Bob is my friend, they would know I might be serious, but that I was really not that serious.
The other scenario would be that the landlord hired an attorney, and the attorney drew up a formal notice to cure or notice to quit. They would then have their process server on it. The tenant would be sitting in their house one day watching the news after they got home from a hard days of work and then the server would knock on the door and when the tenant answered the door it would be the process server who would verify the tenant’s name, they would hand over the notice and then they would just walk away.
The tenant being served would have a powerful psychological effect, and about 20 to 30 percent of the time once I serve a notice, the tenants either pay the rent or get out, but the parties would not have to go to court. The tenant would know the landlord is serious and they would know their landlord was spending money.
If the tenant did not vacate the premises, then they would get hit right away with the petition and they would get the idea that their landlord meant business so they would not be able to string the landlord out for months and months by being late or just not paying at all. I advise landlords to train their tenant that paying the rent would come before going out to dinner, a new car, a new cell phone, cable, new shoes or vacation. The landlord would have to come first and everything else would have to be secondary because if they did not pay the landlord, they would be living on the street.
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