Landlords usually charge their tenants late fees or start the eviction process when they miss a rent payment. Depending on local laws and your lease, landlords might provide tenants with a grace period. For tenants, being aware of their rights under the law and the terms of their lease is very important to make sure they avoid eviction or unnecessary fees. There's also a few things tenants who are struggling can do to work things out.
A grace period is the amount of time after a rental due date but before late fees are charged. As long as the tenant pays rent during the grace period, he will not be liable for the late or nonpayment fees he agreed to in the lease, even though the rent is technically late. Grace periods can sometimes be extended or modified in unique circumstances, but these arrangements usually require a good working relationship with the landlord and a history of paying rent in full.
Rental grace periods serve several important functions. The most obvious is that it helps protect otherwise responsible tenants from the effects of the occasional late payment. A tenant may miss her rent due date once or twice during her tenancy without slipping into a regular habit of delinquency. Additionally, grace periods help address the lag time in the postal or financial systems that might hold up the rent by a day or two.
While state laws prescribe the various terms of a lease that are legally enforceable, they don't generally require landlords to provide a grace period. In some states like California, late fees are illegal, so landlords are not allowed to charge more if you miss a rent payment. This is a kind of mixed blessing, though, as landlords who cannot charge a late fee are only left with eviction as the means of dealing with a late payment.
While state laws do not provide for grace periods, they usually place limits on how quickly a landlord can pursue eviction. These restrictions vary from state to state, but generally, landlords can issue a nonpayment notice within a few days or a week of a missed payment. A nonpayment notice starts the eviction process, though it is not the same as an eviction, which is a legal proceeding executed by the courts. Usually if a tenant submits at least part of his rent payment or negotiates his circumstances with his landlord, he's able to avoid eviction.
- SF Gate: Rent Grace Period Permissible But Not Legal Requirement; Robert Griswold; 2004
- State of Georgia: Landlord/Tenant Handbook; 1998
- California Tenant Law: Residential Landlord-Tenant Law; Ken Carlson; 2005
- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Florida's Landlord/Tenant Law; 2011
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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