It happens to the best of us. Maybe your car broke down on the way to work; perhaps your little one wound up in the ER unexpectedly a few nights ago; or maybe your dog decided to swallow your entire fitted sheet. Accidents and unexpected events happen-- and they're often costly.
Sometimes, factors out of your control put you in a position where you're unable to make your rent. It can be difficult to know how to approach your landlord and ask for permission to make that payment late. Speaking to your landlord can be nervewracking, but it doesn't have to be! Below, we've outlined a number of steps that you can take to boost your chances of success.
Your Guide to Negotiating Late Rent Payments with Your Landlord
If something about your finances or schedule will prevent you from sending in a rent payment on time, you'll likely have a sense for it in advance. Keep an eye on your bank account (and your calendar) in the days and weeks that lead up to paying rent. Get ready to start on some serious conversations with your landlord if things look questionable as payment day looms.
Sometimes, it's impossible to plan ahead or be proactive. Emergencies are uncontrollable. If you were counting on paying rent on time but a last-minute calamity held you back, don't despair-- you still have a fair shot at scoring an extension with your landlord.
The point remains that whether it's two weeks or two days before you're meant to pay up, it's best to get in touch with your landlord as soon as you know there may be issues with payment. The further in advance you can ask for a few extra days to make a payment the better.
Get it in writing
The age-old adage is true. Keep everything concerning your situation, payment, desire for an extension, your landlord's agreement or refusal, etc. in writing. This document could come back into play legally. Keep your tone and writing mechanics professional and simple. Include a brief explanation of your situation, but don't fill your letter with emotional details.
Don't string your landlord along with your letter, either. Open up a dialog by stating right away why you're writing. It's as simple as saying: "I'm writing to request an extension for my rent payment. It's due the first of September." Include any relevant information that may influence your landlord's decision. This includes:
- The date you will be able to pay rent
- Any partial rent you may be willing to pay now
- A brief rundown of why you need to request a delay
Finish off with a request for your landlord to get in touch with you. It's unlikely they'll approve or deny your request based on your email alone. Your landlord will probably want to ask you further questions. Take initiative and offer up your contact info with an invitation to speak further.
A few final tips for your letter:
- Lay out clear information about when you'll have the funds you need
- Provide your own dates and deadlines
- Be clear and concise
- Don't leave obvious loopholes open
- Avoid groveling or excuses
Offer partial payment up front
Offering up what you can to cover costs at the right time is good policy. Not only is your landlord waiting on money (which is easier to wait for once you have some already), but it's just good manners. If you're willing to cough up partial payment now, it could be secret to unlocking some free time until you can really make rent.
When you offer a partial payment, you signify that you're willing to make good-faith attempts to get rent paid. Your landlord is more likely to take you at your word and understand your mistake if you do what you can to make amends. Somebody who offers to pay half of rent on the first and half on the tenth looks more trustworthy than someone who asks for extension after extension without ever flashing any cash.
Don't let fear of negotiation hold you back
Many of us-- especially women and younger generations-- are nervous when it comes to negotiation. Whether it's due to a lack of experience or a society that's taught us we shouldn't ask for what we need, it's common to avoid conflict and fear asking for something unconventional.
Don't be nervous! Going into a conversation in a panic will only make you more likely to forget important details or waver in the face of denial. Requesting grace for a late payment may not thrill your landlord, but they'll be more receptive to that than a late payment.
You have little choice when it comes to this issue. In all likelihood, there's a good chance you will need to speak to your landlord personally (face-to-face or over the phone). Make peace with the fact you may have to push for what you need. It's not always easy, but it's not the end of the world.
Check to see about waiving late fees
If you take a look at your lease, chances are you'll find a section about late rent payments; and chances are that section will include information about fees or interest that you owe your landlord in the event of late payment.
Your landlord agreeing to accept a late payment is only part of the battle. Depending on their policy, you could be looking at some serious cash down the drain to cover fees and interest. If your landlord was open to offering an extension on your payment, don't be afraid to ask if they'll give you some leeway when it comes to penalty costs.
Some benevolent landlords may approve requests for late payment without a whole lot of thought. It's not unheard of for tenants' initial request emails to be enough to score them an extension.
In most cases, though, your landlord will need to speak with you and may have questions. It's important that you remain as accessible as possible. Remember, you're asking for a favor-- and a pretty serious one at that. Don't skip class or call out of work just to stay home and babysit the phone, but leave your ringer on and keep an eye on your email inbox, too.
Most tenants who repeatedly cause trouble or fail to pay rent go AWOL. Landlords know to be on the lookout for renters who seem to disintegrate from the face of the earth once it's time to make a payment. Keep yourself accessible-- and that means emotionally, too. Try to avoid showing too much frustration or getting short with your landlord.
Being (1) able to communicate and (2) able to do so without getting bristly will carry you far in your efforts. No need to be a doormat; just mind your Ps and Qs.
A one-time late payment won't send the average landlord's accounts to collections. Your landlord likely won't be thrilled about your request, but there's a good chance they won't respond nearly as negatively as you anticipate. These people are working professionals-- occasional mishaps and late payments are all a part of the job.
Staying relaxed and confident will help you better articulate yourself when you state your case. It'll also help assure your landlord that you have some measure of control over the situation. Wouldn't you be more likely to trust somebody who's calm about a delayed payment?
Have a plan for the future
If you're stuck asking for an extension to pay rent, you should work a little self-reflection into the process. This is good policy. It helps you avoid going through the experience again and gives you a chance to pinpoint what went wrong. In some cases, this may even provide you with a plan of action that you can share with your landlord.
Take a look at why you wound up needing to pay rent and work from there:
- If you forgot to pay on time consider setting up automatic transfers or payments. You'll never need to worry about remembering dates and deadlines again.
- If it's a long-term affordability issue, take a long hard look at your situation. You may need to overhaul your budget, take on a roommate, look for a different job, or try to find cheaper housing.
- If a short-term cash flow issue got the better of you, consider how you wound up in your current position. It may be that slightly altered spending habits or keeping a better eye on the calendar could be all you need.
Again: depending on your situation, this information could be helpful to include in your letter or during the negotiation process. Giving a clear example of how you'll avoid identical mistakes in the future will help ease your landlord's mind and make them more likely to grant an extension.
Working With VerticalRent
At VerticalRent, we offer landlords a suite of tenant screening, rent payment, and cash flow management tools. Everything from credit reports and background checks to everyday property management tasks can be controlled right from our rental property software. We also offer renters a suite of self-service tools like the ability to pay rent online, submit maintenance requests, and order background reports on yourself.
If you're a landlord looking to streamline the application and rent payment processes, drop us a line. We've got a variety of great tools designed to help make the humdrum of renting a little easier. When you aren't stuck worrying about glitchy software or useless tools, you'll be free to focus on what really matters.