If your tenants don’t always pay on time, you’re not alone. Landlords throughout New Jersey must deal with this situation, and most of them have no idea how to put a stop to it. That’s a problem, because allowing late payments habitually just makes enforcing due dates later more complicated. If you’ve already made a habit of accepting late payments, here are the steps you should take now.
Step One: Verify Your Records
Your books and records should be in excellent condition before you attempt to begin any kind of eviction proceeding. It will be necessary to prove that the tenant has made more than one late payment, so you should be able to show when, and how often the tenant has paid rent late. It is wise to keep checks whenever possible, and to keep any messages the tenants send you about the rent.
Make sure you review the entire lease at least once before you send out any notices. Make sure there are no clauses that make your policy on late rent payments unclear. While it isn’t necessary to clarify that rent must be paid on time, it’s always helpful to have a cause in the lease that states late payments are a violation. That way, you can show that the tenant had no expectation that this would be tolerated.
Step Two: Send a Notice to Cease Late Payment of Rent
Your next step is to send a 30-day Notice to Cease that informs the tenant that they have 30 days to cease the violating behavior (in this case, late rents). You can send this notice at any time after the tenant has made a late payment, even if the tenant is already current when the notice is sent. What you do next will depend on how the tenant responds.
If the tenant corrects the behavior that caused the notice, you may no longer be able to proceed with an eviction. In some cases, you may need to present at least two notices before you can move forward with the eviction. In nearly all cases, the Notice to Quit will be the last one you send.
Step Three: Send a Notice to Quit
A “Notice to Quit” is the final notice that informs the tenants that they have 30 days to leave the property. In some cases, you can send it after the first violation following the Notice to Cease. However, it is not always this simple to evict even with good records. It is very important that you do not send this notice before you can legally do so. If you do, your complaint may be thrown out, and you may be forced to start over.
Don’t risk losing all your work. Instead, schedule a consultation with our lawyers about handling habitual late payments. We have the experience to help you with any step in the eviction process, including by drafting notices or representing you in landlord-tenant hearings.