How to Handle Seattle Tenants That Can't Pay Rent

The Joseph Group Oct 2021

Ian Joseph

“Clients first!” – is a huge part of the DNA that Ian Joseph and his Team have established at The Joseph Group. This motto helps them focus on striving for the highest level of customer experience, for their clients (landlords) and customers (tenants). In fact, Ian strongly believes that in life, family and business, you must strive to give more than you receive. “You can have everything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." - Zig Ziglar

On any given month, there are Seattle tenants that cannot pay rent. This is not to say that it's acceptable for a tenant to miss their payment, but landlords should know what steps they may need to take to protect themselves financially.

Whether a renter "can't" or "won't" pay the rent could be two different situations that require different approaches. Keep reading for tips from the best property management company Seattle offers!

Young couple standing on the modern kitchen with laptop and smartphone while working from home (R) (S)

Check the Lease or Rental Agreement

To begin with, make sure you have your lease on hand. This will serve as the groundwork for your relationship with the tenant and allow you to cite specific clauses and lease violations when necessary. In addition, Washington State has laws regarding late fees and penalties that landlords can apply to late rent, so be sure to check with your lawyer and a property manager before taking action against your tenant. 

Send a Timely Reminder

A Notice of Noncompliance should be sent out via email or letter according to the terms outlined in your lease. Sometimes a late payment reminder could be enough to remind a renter to pay the rent. However, if they don't reply or pay, it's time to move on to the next steps.

Connect With Your Tenant

If there is no response from your Notice of Noncompliance, check-in with the tenant about their situation. When you know you have a good renter, a late rental payment could be a sign that they're having financial issues. 

Talk with them to understand what's going on and ask if you can do anything to help. Be careful not to overstep your boundaries by offering your own money or services (or invading their privacy) to help them through a tough time. Stick to what's in the lease and the experience of a property management professional to guide this conversation and assess the situation. 

Your tenant may just need some extra time before they are able to resume paying rent. If they have an acceptable reason for missing payments (such as job loss), work with them on a late payment due date or put them on a payment plan until they get caught up. However, be careful with setting your new due date. It needs to be realistic for them to pay on time. The lease agreement should also specify a grace period after the rent payment due date during which your renter can still pay the rent, and it's considered "on time."

Assess Late Fees

In many cases, late fees are also enforceable by law in Seattle, but these details need to be specific in the lease. If your lease document doesn't currently have specific language about how you'll assess late fees, work with a property management company and your lawyer update the lease and make sure your lease and late fee process complies with current laws. 

Past Due Envelope (R) (S)

If late fees are documented in the lease, and your tenant still hasn't paid the rent or agreed to a payment plan, it's time to enforce the penalty and add the late fee amount to the past-due rent. When a polite late-payment reminder doesn't work, sometimes the cost of late fees is the motivation a renter needs to pay the rent!

If You Can't Work It Out

On the other hand, some tenants just won't pay their rent when they're supposed to. If, after all your efforts to collect a late payment, you can't work it out with them, don't hesitate to send a Notice to Pay or Quit (or Notice of Eviction) letter according to Seattle, WA landlord-tenant law. 

This tells your resident they need to either pay rent or face eviction and possibly be removed from your rental unit in the next 30 days. As property managers and landlords in Seattle know, eviction can be tricky to comply with the law. It should be the last step when all other efforts to collect unpaid rent fail. If you're wondering, "what does it cost to evict a tenant," the answer is that it's more costly than choosing quality renters who pay the rent on time! 

Work with Seattle property managers and an eviction attorney to send the eviction notice and guide you through the eviction process. When it's time to find a new tenant, a property management company can also help you screen better prospective tenants and find one that never misses a payment. 

Seattle Property Management Companies Handle Rent Collection

On-time rent collection is a crucial aspect of owning and operating successful rental properties in Seattle. If you're struggling with a bad tenant and nonpayment of rent, it's time for professional property management services! Having the right property manager means rental property owners never have to deal with uncooperative tenants or months without rental income. 

The Joseph Group handles every aspect of full-service property management, including tenant screening, rent collection, eviction proceedings, and more. Reach out soon to talk more about how we can help you handle tenants who can't (or won't) pay the rent!

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