Late rent payments are reason to start eviction

  • Article by: RENTING and THE LAWKELLY KLEIN
  • Updated: June 10, 2011 - 2:11 PM

Q I have a single-family house that I rent out. A tenant moved in on March 1. She paid the March rent on March 5, but that check bounced. She attributed the bounced check to a mistake by her bank. I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

March came and went, but I was not able to collect any money until April 12, when she paid me all of the March rent, plus late fees, and part of April. As of May 14, she had not paid any more rent. I have left several messages on her voice mail, but she has not returned them.

At what point do I begin the eviction process?

A Begin the eviction process now. You have the right to collect rent. You have expenses related to owning the property, and you need to be able to cover them.

Obviously, you have a tenant who cannot or will not pay rent. In some counties, you can combine the eviction action with a request for a judgment for outstanding rent. You should ask at the courthouse if you can do that.

If your tenant does pay you, be careful about accepting a partial payment. First, check your lease. Some leases have language that allows a landlord to accept partial payment without waiving any rights. In addition, you can draw up a receipt signed by you and the tenant outlining the fact that you are not waiving any rights by accepting a partial rent payment. If the tenant mails you a partial payment, do not cash it until you have confirmed that your lease permits it or you have that signed receipt.

If you do receive a partial payment, you also should consider discussing payment terms with the tenant, having her agree to a realistic payment schedule so that she can get caught up.

When you are in court, you can accept a partial payment as part of a settlement, but make sure you memorialize any such agreement on the record with the tenant.

Get it in writing

Q When I signed my apartment lease in St. Louis Park in June 2009, the assistant manager told me my rent would not go up to the level of "market rent." I have been paying $1,262, and market rent was listed at about $1,640 on the lease. I told her I couldn't pay that amount, and she assured me that would not happen. Now in my lease renewal, my rent has increased to $1,640, which I cannot afford. Do I have any recourse?

A Unless you have something in writing stating that your rent would not be raised at the time of your lease renewal, you have no recourse. It's important to get agreements in writing. When your lease is running, your rent can't be raised, but at the time of renewal, it can. Try negotiating with the assistant manager by reminding her of the oral agreement she made to you. Point out that you've been a great tenant for two years.

Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to kklein@kleinpa.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.

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