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Are you a tenant who can't pay this month's rent or a landlord of one?

Sometimes people are on a tight budget or face an unexpected financial hardship, which could translate into the inability to pay rent in full or on time. A landlord could either be accommodating or not. Some issues to consider on both ends when considering an accommodation:

If you are a landlord:

 1. Document the exceptions.

Your lease agreement may include a provision that essentially states that any divergence from the required provisions do not constitute a waiver of those provisions. For example, if rent is due on the 1st of each month, but the landlord accepts rent 15 days late on two different occasions, the provision would mean the landlord can still say rent is due on the 1st later on and doesn’t have to accept rent 15 days late because of the two prior instances. Regardless of whether your lease includes this provision or not, I would suggest you document your decision to allow any exception in writing. Thus, if you are allowing a tenant to pay late or in installments, put the terms in writing, including any deadlines and amounts and making clear that the arrangement is a one-time exception to the tenant’s rent obligations. That way, you can avoid any “he said, she said” arguments on the actual terms and be able to proceed with pursuing remedies against the tenant if he/she fails to pay accordingly.

2. Stick to your terms.

Sometimes you may be fed up with a particular tenant and want to evict them. Once you give a 5-Day Pay Rent or Quit eviction notice to a tenant, you have no obligation to accept partial payments. Thus, a tenant may offer to pay part of the rent in an effort to appease you, but if you genuinely want to evict the tenant, do not accept it. Once you accept the partial payment, you have to restart the eviction process by serving a new eviction notice stating the new, updated balance owed. Granted, your only option in collecting unpaid rent is to deduct it from any security deposit or to sue the tenant later, so if either option is unavailable or would seem useless, you may think collecting some rent now would be better than none later. Also, you may incur more costs in prolonging an eviction process, though you could try to recoup the costs from the tenant. So, you would have to weigh your options in whether to accommodate your current tenant or replace him/her.

3. Don’t dip into the tenant’s security deposit.

A tenant may ask you to deduct the rent owed from their security deposit during the tenancy. Some tenants genuinely don’t understand that the landlord doesn’t have to use the security for this purpose. However, you should think twice before agreeing to this request. You never know in what condition the tenant may leave the property after moving out or how easy it may be to collect from them through a court judgment for damages, so the safest “security” you have to have some funds available would be to keep the deposit in full until the end of the tenancy.

If you are a tenant:

 1. Keep documentation.

Just as a landlord should keep written proof, so should a tenant. Keep any emails, letters, or text messages where a landlord agrees to accept rent late or a lesser amount. You never know when the landlord might suddenly state you still owe rent or late fees, so best to keep your proof until your tenancy ends. Without written proof, if your landlord is dishonest and insists you owe more, you could face the prospect of eviction for nonpayment of rent. Also, you may have to battle an erroneous reporting on your credit or lawsuit for money the landlord alleges you owe.

2. Don’t count on the landlord accommodating.

This is not a “tip” per se, but just a reminder that many landlords are sticklers for enforcing your lease obligations. Sometimes tenants are dismayed or upset that a landlord will not give them a break when they cannot meet their rent obligations, but landlords do not have to accommodate your hardships by law. You could try borrowing the money or contacting community resources like Help of Southern Nevada to see if you can get rent money, but such options may not be possible. Worst case, you can file an answer (Tenant’s Affidavit) in court to try to ask the court for more time to pay, but bottom line is that help is not always guaranteed.