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Got a Past Due Rent Notice? Here’s What to Do


Photo Courtesy: AntonioGuillem/iStock

A past due rent notice is a letter that a landlord or property manager sends to a tenant when the tenant is late paying rent. Although it can feel stressful in a similar way, a past due rent notice isn’t the same thing as an eviction notice. However, if you don’t pay your past due balance after receiving a past due rent notice, it can lead to eviction.

Getting a letter that your rent is overdue can be difficult to cope with. But it doesn’t mean you’re at risk of losing your housing right away. Understanding what the notice means, what your rights are and how to move forward can help you take steps to preserve your rental history and find stable housing if you need it. Read on to find out some important things to know about receiving a past due rent notice.

If you receive a past due rent notice, it’s important to read it carefully. The notice should clearly state your name, the address of the home you rent, the amount of rent that’s past due and any late fees that apply. The notice may include specific instructions for paying the past due rent. 

A past due rent notice isn’t a legal document that’s filed with a court somewhere. Your landlord can knock on the door and hand it to you, send it through the regular mail or send it as a certified letter. Some landlords even choose to send the notice through email. Some landlords and property managers send past due rent notices the day after rent is due if it hasn’t been paid. But, a landlord also isn’t required to send a past due rent notice. In most states, other documents, usually sent after a past due notice, are necessary to start the eviction process. The past due rent notice is essentially a letter informing you that you didn’t pay a amount of rent you owed by the due date, and it’s also a request to pay that overdue rent.

What Do Past Due Rent Notices Mean?

Getting a past-due rent notice means you’re late in paying your rent by the due date noted in your lease. If possible, you should make arrangements to pay the rent quickly. Be sure to follow any special instructions on the notice. Due to being late, you may have to use a different payment method than you usually do. You might also owe a late rent fee.

If you don’t pay rent within the time period required after receiving a past due rent notice, your landlord may choose to move forward with the eviction process. When eviction starts, you may receive formal notice of the eviction process from a local court. In some states, a landlord can also send an eviction notice before beginning the eviction process.

An eviction notice is a formal notice that the landlord intends to pursue eviction. This allows you to move out before being forced to leave due to an eviction judgment from a court. Some landlords may allow you to stay if you can pay rent after receiving an eviction notice. However, you’re in breach of your lease the first time you don’t pay rent on time. At the point in the process where your landlord has started pursuing eviction, they can reject your payment and continue the eviction process. 

What to Do When You Get a Past Due Rent Notice

A lease is a contract, and not paying rent when you owe it is a breach of that contract. Your state’s laws determine how many months of rent you can miss paying before your landlord is allowed to start evicting you. If you’ve received a past due notice and aren’t able to pay your rent, you have options. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recommends discussing your financial situation openly with your landlord. Your landlord may be more willing to work with you than you anticipate. 

As the country recovers from the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain rental assistance programs at the state and national levels can help you if your finances have been impacted by the pandemic. People who don’t typically qualify for government financial assistance may be eligible for emergency rental assistance. Your local Social Security office is a great resource for finding out what programs you can apply for. 

The application process and rules for the program depend on where you live and how much income you earn. Some assistance programs can bring your rent current. Others may subsidize a portion of your monthly rent. And, others may pay your rent for several months. These options can be a great way to handle a past due rent notice.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, an eviction may still be imminent. An eviction is a legal proceeding, and it can help to find a lawyer to represent your legal interests throughout the process. Even if you were unable to rent, there’s still a formal process for evicting a tenant, and there are certain rights you have as a tenant. Your landlord may also be in breach of the lease, and there may be some recourse for you. An experienced lawyer can help you learn your rights and determine if the eviction is valid.

In many states, landlords who encroach on tenants’ rights may have to pay a type of compensation called treble damages. Even if you have a lawyer, you might still need to move out of your rental home. But, you could get a judgment in your favor if the landlord violated any of your rights. That money can help you secure your next rental.

Especially if you receive public assistance to pay for housing, you should seek help from a lawyer if you’ve received a past due rent notice and won’t be able to pay your rent on time. An eviction or a poor rental history can have a serious impact on your future ability to receive further assistance. See if your state has a legal aid program that can help you get representation from a lawyer for free.

Remember that a past due rent notice is simply a notification. If you pay the rent in a timely manner, the process stops there. If you cannot pay the rent on time, speak openly with the landlord. The simplest solution to the problem is having a landlord who may agree to a payment arrangement or reduce your rent. If your landlord isn’t willing to work with you, there are assistance programs that may be able to help you. And even if you don’t qualify for assistance, certain programs may be able to guide you through the process of finding a more affordable home.

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