Updated: Aug 28, 2018
Uh-oh. The 1st of the next month is coming and you don't have enough to pay full rent.
It can happen for lots of reasons: not enough income this month, too many other expenses - whether for good or bad reasons, you lent money to someone, you were stolen from, or you simply have no idea where your money went. As a landlord for many years, I have heard almost every reason under the sun why rent will not be paid on time or in full.
No matter the reason, rent is still due. So, what do you do? From a landlord's perspective, this is my honest advice:
Check Your Lease
The first step is to find your lease and check it. How much do you owe? Make sure you include rent, utilities, pet rent, renter's liability insurance - and total it up. What day of the month is it due? When is the last day rent can be paid without getting a late fee?
The first impulse many renters have is to not say anything to their landlord. After all, you don't have the rent! It may be embarrassing or you hope they don't notice. You'd be amazed how often a renter does this.
Not talking to your landlord is the worst thing you can do. No landlord or property manager enjoys having a conversation about rent not being paid on time. But what's worse? A resident who doesn't talk to you about it! A landlord will wonder why they were not paid and may assume the worst - that they will not be paid at all.
So, have the conversation. Tell your landlord the situation.
Let them know how much you can pay on the 1st of the month. This is important - because if you pay as much as you can on the 1st (not just the last day you can pay before getting charged a late fee), it shows your landlord that you are serious about your responsibility to pay your rent.
Then tell them when you can have the remainder. (Then - this is important - follow through with those payments).
Almost all landlords charge a late fee if rent is not paid on time. How much and when the late fee is charged depends on your lease. Check your lease - how much is the late fee? Is there an initial fee and a daily fee thereafter? Write down the numbers.
Be aware that late fees can really add up and that creates a very strong incentive to pay on time. In one of my properties, I once had a renter pay late every single month and he was charged the full amount. Over one year, the late fees added up enough that it was like he paid for an extra 3 months of rent!
Regularly paying your rent late is not a winning formula for financial success.
If you do not pay rent when it is due, be prepared to receive a notice from your landlord, especially if you did not communicate in advance. It may be posted on your door, which means your neighbors may see it.
This is not meant to be mean or embarrassing - though sometimes that is a pretty good incentive to communicate with your landlord - but rather, to make certain that the resident is aware. It is often required by law, so the landlord can take further action, if needed. And it can also be a tool for the landlord to determine where they may have a resident who left without notice (because the notice is still on the door a day or two later).
If you have not communicated with your landlord and have not paid rent, your landlord will likely file an eviction action against you. In my experience, no landlord wants to do this - but they absolutely will do it when no payment has been made and no communication has occurred. They will also pursue an eviction if you have communicated, but have not upheld your end of any arrangements that have been made.
Be aware that an eviction will show up on your credit background in the future and may prevent you from leasing elsewhere. This is a nasty side effect of the landlord exercising his or her legal right to take back possession of an apartment or a home from a non-paying renter so they can lease it again to someone who will pay their rent. It is always better to avoid eviction at all costs.