Five myths about pursuing a tenant for late rent 

I cannot count the number of times landlords have come to me when after months and months of partial payments and late payments, the tenant ultimately stops paying. 


These landlords have usually allowed the tenant to amass a 3-6 month past due balance and are in full blown panic mode due to the loss of revenue.  Imagine the shock when I tell them it will likely take another 3-6 months to remove the tenant.


Hopefully dispelling these four common myths will keep other landlords from sustaining long periods without rental income.


Myth 1:  The tenant must be given a grace period.


Under Maryland law, if rent is due on the first, then it is considered late on the second, and the landlord can file a Failure to Pay Rent - Landlord's Complaint for Reposession of Rented Property as soon as the 2nd, UNLESS, the lease says something different.  That said, landlords must provide a grace period before assessing a late fee. In most instances, the late fee can be assessed on the 6th day that payment is late, but some jurisdictions such as Montgomery County and Baltimore City have slightly different rules.


Myth 2:  Filing an eviction action means you want to evict the tenant.


Apartment complex owners and managers usually file an eviction case for nonpayment for any tenant who has not paid by the 5th or 10th of the month. This is for at least two reasons.  First, from start to finish, it takes approximately 3-5 months to evict a tenant after the court case is filed. During winter months, it can take longer.  If the tenant really cannot pay, starting early reduces the amount of time the landlord does not receive rent.  


Waiting for the tenant to be a couple of months behind can lead to almost a year without revenue on the unit.


Second, once an eviction action is filed, tenants usually find the money to pay. Only a small portion of rent cases ever get before a judge, and an even a smaller portion result in eviction. Landlords get to find out whether the tenant has money and is using it for another purpose or whether the tenant is really in a crises. Even if the landlord wins in court, eviction can be delayed by approximately 2-3 months to allow the tenant time to pay or vacate the unit.


For more information on the court process for nonpayment, follow the link below.

Myth 3:  Hiring an attorney is expensive.


Attorneys who handle landlord-tenant cases on a regular basis charge very little for nonpayment cases.  In many instances, the fee is just slightly more than the amount the landlord collects from tenants as a late fee. In some instances, the attorney fees can be covered entirely by the late fee.


Myth 4:  The tenant must be given notice. 


Maryland law does not require giving a tenant notice before filing a case for failure to pay rent. 



This post was written by LaVonne Torrence Berner, principal attorney at Torrence Law Office, LLC


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