Time To Be The Hardnosed Landlord?

I knew that this post would come up eventually, but I was hoping that it would not occur for some time. You might remember that I purchased an investment property a few months ago which came with a tenant. The tenant receives most of her rent subsidized for her since she has terminal cancer. Rent in the state where I own the property is cheap and she now has about 85% of her rent subsidized, so she is responsible for a relatively small amount of her rent. She is also responsible for paying her own utilities.

When I purchased the home I gave her a six month lease to see if we could deal successfully with each other. Her lease ends at the end of this month, and we were just discussing a possible renewal when I realized something…She has not paid her rent on time once within the nearly 6 months since I’ve owned the house. The portion that the state subsidized arrives 2 weeks early directly from them, but her portion has never been on time. In fact, her September payment was “lost in the mail” so it was combined with October’s rent which I received 8 days late and only after calling her.

Now, her lease calls for a $50 late fee if she is late with her rent. I’m a sucker for a sob story and because she basically got a free refrigerator for me, I have never charged her the extra $50, but I realized that I have inadvertently done two things:

  1. Robbed myself of $250 over the past 6 months, and
  2. Set a dangerous precidence with my tenant

So since the lease is up for renewal, do I turn into a hard ass?  Do I begin charging her the late fee?  I’m tempted to send her a separate letter from the lease renewal listing all the dates that her payments were received (and actually they were all postmarked after they were due) and spelling out that from now on, any late payments will be charged the $50 late payment fee.  According to the lease agreement, non-payment of the late fee would be considered a breach of the lease agreement.

Before you go telling me that I shouldn’t do this because she has cancer, I know that she is using her health situation to manipulate me, or maybe that’s just how I feel.  I’ve been fed one sad story after another and I’ve fallen for them all.  One time when she was late with her rent, she told me that it was the anniversary of her mother’s recent death and she was too incapacitated to leave the house.  I later found out that her mother had passed away some 8 years before, but the way that she has presented it to me was as if she had passed away the year before.  She’s told me how many medications she is on to manage her cancer, but when I showed up to fix something in the house, she was still chain smoking cigarettes.  This was the reason she said, that she couldn’t qualify for a lung transplant.  She didn’t want to quit smoking.

All that aside, should I even take someone’s health situation into my rent collection?  I have to pay for this bad boy every month, and I’m never late on my payments.  In fact, if I were late on my payments, she’d be out of a home to live in.  So, do I send her this notification telling her to shape up, but in a nice, polite way, or do I continue as before?  I feel as if I need to enforce all of the terms of the lease in order to preserve all of  my rights and not act like such a pushover.  Actually, I’m feeling like a sucker.  I hate feeling like an idiot.

This post was included in the Carnival of Money Stories #76 hosted by Richly Reasonable.

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39 thoughts on “Time To Be The Hardnosed Landlord?

  • She was late five out of six months? Sounds like she is making excuses and poor decisions. I earn very little money yet I always, ALWAYS pay my rent on time. It’s the first bill of the month and I plan for it. If I have a smaller than usual check at the end of the month then I skip buying groceries or other things that can wait until the rent is out of the way. It is important to have a good relationship with your landlord. Facing death or not, don’t let her take advantage of you.

    • I forgot to mention that she gets social security disability which more than covers her expenses and they ALWAYS deposit it by the 1st of the month. I give her until the 5th to pay. I’m lenient I think.

  • She was late five out of six months? Sounds like she is making excuses and poor decisions. I earn very little money yet I always, ALWAYS pay my rent on time. It’s the first bill of the month and I plan for it. If I have a smaller than usual check at the end of the month then I skip buying groceries or other things that can wait until the rent is out of the way. It is important to have a good relationship with your landlord. Facing death or not, don’t let her take advantage of you.

  • Caught between a rock and a hard place. I think I would also feel like a sucker if I were in your shoes. Don’t honestly know what I would do.

    I might just suck it up because the poor woman doesn’t have much longer to live anyways, right? I don’t want to be hard to someone who’s terminally ill. Then again, it’s never fun to feel taken advantage of.

    • Well that’s just it. She had her terminal diagnosis she says 3 years ago. I wonder if she’s like Elizabeth Edwards where the cancer is inoperable but she’ll be living for years before the inevitable happens? She’s in her early 50’s, smokes like a chimney (I’m gonna have to air the place out and toss the carpets after) and seems to get along okay. I don’t know. My conscience eats at me with this one. My mom says that I’m too nice. When mom says that you’re a sucker…

  • Caught between a rock and a hard place. I think I would also feel like a sucker if I were in your shoes. Don’t honestly know what I would do.

    I might just suck it up because the poor woman doesn’t have much longer to live anyways, right? I don’t want to be hard to someone who’s terminally ill. Then again, it’s never fun to feel taken advantage of.

    • Well that’s just it. She had her terminal diagnosis she says 3 years ago. I wonder if she’s like Elizabeth Edwards where the cancer is inoperable but she’ll be living for years before the inevitable happens? She’s in her early 50’s, smokes like a chimney (I’m gonna have to air the place out and toss the carpets after) and seems to get along okay. I don’t know. My conscience eats at me with this one. My mom says that I’m too nice. When mom says that you’re a sucker…

  • I own a rental property as well and sometimes I really appreciate the fact that I live in a different state (very far away) and I pay a rental management company to take care of all the dirty work for the property.

    But in the end I have the final say, and when our tenants failed to pay rent for almost two whole months, I was done with the sob stories and had the management company send an eviction notice; the rent has been paid every month since.

    Some people will do anything they can to take advantage, and if you let them, you will be the one hurting in the end. Send her a formal letting detailing the late payments prior, and informing her that if she doesn’t pay on time, the fee will no longer be waived.

    • I might need to pay a management company, but her rent is really cheap since I took her story to heart. I mean dirt cheap. It’s off by about 15% below normal for the area and I wasn’t raising it with the renewal. But, I might need that buffer between me and her.

  • I own a rental property as well and sometimes I really appreciate the fact that I live in a different state (very far away) and I pay a rental management company to take care of all the dirty work for the property.

    But in the end I have the final say, and when our tenants failed to pay rent for almost two whole months, I was done with the sob stories and had the management company send an eviction notice; the rent has been paid every month since.

    Some people will do anything they can to take advantage, and if you let them, you will be the one hurting in the end. Send her a formal letting detailing the late payments prior, and informing her that if she doesn’t pay on time, the fee will no longer be waived.

    • I might need to pay a management company, but her rent is really cheap since I took her story to heart. I mean dirt cheap. It’s off by about 15% below normal for the area and I wasn’t raising it with the renewal. But, I might need that buffer between me and her.

  • I agree with Jesse “Some people will do anything they can to take advantage, and if you let them, you will be the one hurting in the end. Send her a formal letting detailing the late payments prior, and informing her that if she doesn’t pay on time, the fee will no longer be waived.” Set the rules down and follow through. She won’t get a better rate elsewhere, and it sounds like she is used to manipulating people with her illness. You can still be kind, but be firm. She will fall in line… once she knows that you are not playing around.

  • I agree with Jesse “Some people will do anything they can to take advantage, and if you let them, you will be the one hurting in the end. Send her a formal letting detailing the late payments prior, and informing her that if she doesn’t pay on time, the fee will no longer be waived.” Set the rules down and follow through. She won’t get a better rate elsewhere, and it sounds like she is used to manipulating people with her illness. You can still be kind, but be firm. She will fall in line… once she knows that you are not playing around.

  • I think with the lease renewal, you should make it extra clear that she will be charged a late fee if the rent is not received on ‘x’ day. It is time to start a ‘clean’ slate, and feel free to charge her.

    If she can spend the money on cigarettes, she can afford her late fees.

  • I think with the lease renewal, you should make it extra clear that she will be charged a late fee if the rent is not received on ‘x’ day. It is time to start a ‘clean’ slate, and feel free to charge her.

    If she can spend the money on cigarettes, she can afford her late fees.

  • I love the quote someone posted about give a inch and they take a mile.

    but when it comes down to it business is business you should stand by what you have in the contract. Not by her health issues which she clearly is not too concerned with if she has been advised to quite smoking and has not!!! I know someone will say it is easier said than done but hey we are talking about her being concerned with here life.

    So as I said before Business is Business…. stick to the lease

  • I love the quote someone posted about give a inch and they take a mile.

    but when it comes down to it business is business you should stand by what you have in the contract. Not by her health issues which she clearly is not too concerned with if she has been advised to quite smoking and has not!!! I know someone will say it is easier said than done but hey we are talking about her being concerned with here life.

    So as I said before Business is Business…. stick to the lease

  • I agree with Denise. You must treat this situation like a business. I know, its easier said than done. I speak from experience. I’ve had a few rentals and I learned pretty quick to not get too friendly and keep it on a professional business level. If you have it noted in your lease that she must pay a $50 late fee, then charge it. Otherwise, you are setting a legal precendent. I finally decided I had enough of being a landlord and sold my 1 remaining rental last year. I’m too much of a softy. However, if you have the fortitude, and it sounds like you do after reading about your unemployed friend, it can be profitable. I wouldn’t have my current house almost paid for if it wasn’t for what I made on the rentals. By the way, I found you through Kevin at thousandair.com.

  • I agree with Denise. You must treat this situation like a business. I know, its easier said than done. I speak from experience. I’ve had a few rentals and I learned pretty quick to not get too friendly and keep it on a professional business level. If you have it noted in your lease that she must pay a $50 late fee, then charge it. Otherwise, you are setting a legal precendent. I finally decided I had enough of being a landlord and sold my 1 remaining rental last year. I’m too much of a softy. However, if you have the fortitude, and it sounds like you do after reading about your unemployed friend, it can be profitable. I wouldn’t have my current house almost paid for if it wasn’t for what I made on the rentals. By the way, I found you through Kevin at thousandair.com.

  • People with lung cancer can live a surprisingly long time these days…I know someone who’s had it for years.

    You’re not in business to provide health care or nursing home care. You’re in business to make a dime. And you can’t do that if you cut slack to people, no matter how sympathetic you may feel toward them.

    If you have to destink the property, that’s not going to be cheap — you’ll have to repaint, thoroughly clean all woodwork and the insides of the cabinetry, and change out the carpeting. You’ll need that $250 (plus several months’ worth of rent) to clean up after a smoker. Next time, rent to nonsmokers! 😉

    You say that her disability check is always deposited by the first of the month (do you have proof of that? I get Social Security — not disability — and it’s direct-deposited around the 20th, not always on the same day), and you believe it more than covers her expenses (are you sure? what portion of her meds does she have to pay? Medicare has a “donut hole” that can quickly pauperize a person who is taking a lot of expensive medications, which defines “cancer patient”). If you know these two factors to be true, then you’re ethically justified to demand to be paid on time…and in fact, if you don’t adhere to your rule, you may end up legally abdicating it.

    If I were you, I would probably not renew her lease. You’re within your rights, because she hasn’t been paying on time. Alternatively, send her a firmly but kindly worded letter informing her that the lease will be terminated if she doesn’t pay by X date. And…why not write her a very short lease, say three or four months, so that when it runs out you can simply refuse to renew the lease? Tell her the lease will not be renewed if she persists in paying late. That will give her plenty of time to find a new landlord to exploit.

    • Vicky,

      Ohh you read me the riot act! Love it. In her lease applications to verify her income I did see her income statements so I know when she gets her money. She receives a HOST of public assistance that covers her expenses since I did a financial worksheet for her to make sure that she could afford the rent. Her medical is partly covered my medicaid and the other by a cancer program that she belongs to.

      I bought the house with her in it, but I would NEVER rent to a smoker. Nothing against you smokers, but you’re expensive. Not only that, but she has a big dog which is driving up my insurance. I really want to get rid of her some time in the Spring since I know that it’s hard to move in the winter. I’m such a softy.

  • People with lung cancer can live a surprisingly long time these days…I know someone who’s had it for years.

    You’re not in business to provide health care or nursing home care. You’re in business to make a dime. And you can’t do that if you cut slack to people, no matter how sympathetic you may feel toward them.

    If you have to destink the property, that’s not going to be cheap — you’ll have to repaint, thoroughly clean all woodwork and the insides of the cabinetry, and change out the carpeting. You’ll need that $250 (plus several months’ worth of rent) to clean up after a smoker. Next time, rent to nonsmokers! 😉

    You say that her disability check is always deposited by the first of the month (do you have proof of that? I get Social Security — not disability — and it’s direct-deposited around the 20th, not always on the same day), and you believe it more than covers her expenses (are you sure? what portion of her meds does she have to pay? Medicare has a “donut hole” that can quickly pauperize a person who is taking a lot of expensive medications, which defines “cancer patient”). If you know these two factors to be true, then you’re ethically justified to demand to be paid on time…and in fact, if you don’t adhere to your rule, you may end up legally abdicating it.

    If I were you, I would probably not renew her lease. You’re within your rights, because she hasn’t been paying on time. Alternatively, send her a firmly but kindly worded letter informing her that the lease will be terminated if she doesn’t pay by X date. And…why not write her a very short lease, say three or four months, so that when it runs out you can simply refuse to renew the lease? Tell her the lease will not be renewed if she persists in paying late. That will give her plenty of time to find a new landlord to exploit.

    • Vicky,

      Ohh you read me the riot act! Love it. In her lease applications to verify her income I did see her income statements so I know when she gets her money. She receives a HOST of public assistance that covers her expenses since I did a financial worksheet for her to make sure that she could afford the rent. Her medical is partly covered my medicaid and the other by a cancer program that she belongs to.

      I bought the house with her in it, but I would NEVER rent to a smoker. Nothing against you smokers, but you’re expensive. Not only that, but she has a big dog which is driving up my insurance. I really want to get rid of her some time in the Spring since I know that it’s hard to move in the winter. I’m such a softy.

  • Ya know what, sometimes you just have to be the jerk. We found out (because apparently, they have no shame) that the people in the apartment below us haven’t paid rent since July, and that they’re fighting with our landlord (in court) to stay in the apartment through the end of November because the fiancee is 3 months pregnant with their 2nd child. I am actually really mad about this, because my rent is paid 2-3 days early every month.

    My landlord is awesome – always quickly responds to problems, super nice and friendly to us, and yes, he’s actually a bit of hardass when it comes to the rent (rightfully so!). And yet, these 2 have attempted to take advantage of him by not paying for 4 months and now claiming hardship. (And they’re smokers! That’s a completely different rant, though…one that would need several bleeps.) If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t renew her lease based on her inability to pay on time, but it’s up to you…how much do you want to deal with? But, you gotta charge the late fees. You can’t let that go.

    • Wait, so she’s pregnant and they’re smokers? And is she’s 3 months pregnant that’s no excuse since they stopped paying rent before she got pregnant. In NY it’s like moving cement to get non-payers out of an apartment, and people take advantage because they know that they can get a good 6 months to a year of free rent, but in PA where I own the house, out within 30 days. I love PA efficiency. I shortened her new lease to 6 months, highlighted that section and send her a separate letter. Then I’ll have to turn the bitch switch on when she’s late, but I won’t hound her for a few days. I built in a 5 day grace period. Day 6 will cost her though.

  • Ya know what, sometimes you just have to be the jerk. We found out (because apparently, they have no shame) that the people in the apartment below us haven’t paid rent since July, and that they’re fighting with our landlord (in court) to stay in the apartment through the end of November because the fiancee is 3 months pregnant with their 2nd child. I am actually really mad about this, because my rent is paid 2-3 days early every month.

    My landlord is awesome – always quickly responds to problems, super nice and friendly to us, and yes, he’s actually a bit of hardass when it comes to the rent (rightfully so!). And yet, these 2 have attempted to take advantage of him by not paying for 4 months and now claiming hardship. (And they’re smokers! That’s a completely different rant, though…one that would need several bleeps.) If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t renew her lease based on her inability to pay on time, but it’s up to you…how much do you want to deal with? But, you gotta charge the late fees. You can’t let that go.

    • Wait, so she’s pregnant and they’re smokers? And is she’s 3 months pregnant that’s no excuse since they stopped paying rent before she got pregnant. In NY it’s like moving cement to get non-payers out of an apartment, and people take advantage because they know that they can get a good 6 months to a year of free rent, but in PA where I own the house, out within 30 days. I love PA efficiency. I shortened her new lease to 6 months, highlighted that section and send her a separate letter. Then I’ll have to turn the bitch switch on when she’s late, but I won’t hound her for a few days. I built in a 5 day grace period. Day 6 will cost her though.

  • If you never said anything, now is a good time. She may very well be of the opinion that it doesn’t bother you. Give her another 6 month “probation” lease with the understanding that you expect rent to be paid on time. Two things to keep in mind, the next tenant could be much worse (she does pay eventually and since you did mention any thing about destroying – I’ll assume she is good that way) and she got a free refrigerator (pretty nice). All in all I would keep her maybe mention the timeliness of the payments – but if she eventually pays her 15% and is otherwise good – you have have a lot lose if she moves.

    • I gave her 6 months more. I think that I won’t renew her lease after that and remind her in 5 months. I DO love the steady check from the state though. They’re so good about paying ahead of time.

  • I am forwarding this to my significant other of 6 years as we speak. He is a Property Manager (works for himself. For 7-10% of the monthly income the house brings in) & sadly he too has fallen into the “Nice Landlord, too late to be a hard @$$ Trap”.

    You have accepted bad behavior from her for almost 1 year now. In her mind she has you where she wants you. She has no need to be responsible for she is not being held accountable.
    Now, I suggest a few things, do not kick her out or try not to.
    Overall despite the chronically late rent is she a good tenant? Cleanliness of the apartment? Noise levels? Guests? Pets? Etc.etc.
    Once you evaluate that IF she were to pay her portion of the rent on time & without fail every month would you be willing to keep her on as a tenant for another 6-12 months?

    If so, you need to have a written contract that spells out when the rent is due and the consequences of the rent being late.
    You MUST, I repeat MUST be FIRM from the get go (day 1 of meeting the person, before they even sign the lease, you MUST lay the law out for them).

    Now, meet with her, let her know why you are hesitant about re signing a lease with her.
    Tell her your new rules (paying ON TIME NO MATTER WHAT OR ELSE)and she MUST initial and sign a new agreement with these new terms and conditions.
    You also have to state in the new contract what actions you will take if she is to deviate in anyway from the contract.

    You MUST follow through no matter what. Even if it’s Christmas Day, her best friends cat died 10 years ago, etc. You get the point.
    Normally the tenant once knowing the jig is up will comply. They will try to defend themselves, maybe get angry, maybe cry a bit and try to make you feel like a heel but you have to remind her if YOUR Mortgage payments are late she is out of a home, you lose a house/investment & your credit goes down the tubes, etc.

    You can also speak to her about the smoking (some apartments have no smoking rules) & the damage it is causing. Obviously any Security Deposit will be used for rehabbing the apt.
    Do you live close to your investment property? If so maybe you can pick up the rent so as to avoid any “But I put it in the mail” issues.

    IDK where you live but in Ct. a tenant does have 10 days to pay their rent BEFORE you can file a notice to quit.
    Technically they can pay their rent in that 10 day grace period and unless you have a rule in the lease you are willing to enforce about rent after a certain date there is nothing you can really do about it.

    Can you please explain a bit more about the free refridgerator? If appliances come with the unit and one breaks or cannot be repaired you are obligated to replace it or fix it within a certain time period. unless (here we go again) the Lease says different.

    That Lease is so very important to you, the Home Owner/Landlord. I have seen tenants walk all over Landlords who do not have clear, concise, detailed leases.
    You may want to review your leases and consider re vamping them for the future.
    That’s just a general reccomendation for everyone.

    I am a “Property Manager Jr.” so to speak. I do a lot of the paperwork, investigations, screening, studying up on the laws in my state and in general, etc.
    The Sheriff jokes about me running a class “Landlord Basics 101” ..

    I am very curious to know how this works out ofr you. Please update soon.

  • Sorry for being late to your saga, sounds like a nail biter. Most people tend to follow, “Do onto other as you want done onto you.” It’s a pretty basic rule. But when you run into someone like this, man, you almost have to throw out the rules. This person is playing you, the system, and anything she comes close to like a master conductor! I understand she has cancer, but still, that’s no excuse to work everyone else over. Sadly, allowing this behavior to go on for 6 months is partly your fault, but that doesn’t mean you have to endure this torture forever. Can’t wait to continue with the next chapters. Man, this is a blood boiling story I have to say!

    • It’s my fault, I know, but I’m such a sucker. I’ve always been “too nice”. I’m a Taurus. We nurture. I can’t help it.

  • Sorry for being late to your saga, sounds like a nail biter. Most people tend to follow, “Do onto other as you want done onto you.” It’s a pretty basic rule. But when you run into someone like this, man, you almost have to throw out the rules. This person is playing you, the system, and anything she comes close to like a master conductor! I understand she has cancer, but still, that’s no excuse to work everyone else over. Sadly, allowing this behavior to go on for 6 months is partly your fault, but that doesn’t mean you have to endure this torture forever. Can’t wait to continue with the next chapters. Man, this is a blood boiling story I have to say!

    • It’s my fault, I know, but I’m such a sucker. I’ve always been “too nice”. I’m a Taurus. We nurture. I can’t help it.

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