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What to Do When your Tenant Stops Paying Rent

Investing in a Lubbock, Texas rental property can produce a steady income stream while the property increases in value. Unfortunately, when you lease your property you may find yourself in a situation where your tenant stops paying rent. While you want to be fair to your tenants, you do have rights as a landlord. Experienced investors know that Texas rental laws are very favorable to landlords. In the state of Texas it is up to you, the landlord, to decide whether to accept late rental payments or force the tenants to move.

If your renters have a positive rental history, you may be able to work something out. But you can also initiate eviction proceedings and have the tenants vacate the property to put it back on the market. In either case, it makes sense to consult with an experienced Texas real estate attorney to get professional advice about your options.

Here are some things you can do to when your tenants stop paying rent:

1. Contact your Tenants


The first thing you can do is contact your tenants. If your tenants do not contact you, reach out to them to find why they are not paying rent. It may be that they are suffering a medical issue, a family matter or financial situation that is causing them to hold off on their rent payments. If you feel that the cause is temporary, it may be worthwhile to compromise and agree to a solution. You might allow the tenants to catch up by paying a little more each month. Or, you may decide to amend the lease and lower the rent.

In your conversations with the tenant, make it clear that nonpayment is a very serious situation. Regardless of how you contact the tenant – by email, phone, mail or in a face-to-face meeting – document the contact in writing. List the date of the contact, the issues discussed and any agreement that you reach. If you follow through with eviction proceedings, your notes can become a vital part of the legal record.

2. Look at the Lease


Even if you screened your tenants carefully and put together a detailed lease, you may face a nonpayment problem. After contacting your tenants, you may decide that the situation is likely to be ongoing. Read the lease carefully to determine how to proceed at this point. Chances are that your lease agreement contains a grace period for rental payment. The grace period allows the tenant to catch up with back rent within a certain designated time period. If not, the tenant usually has three days to come up with the back rent.

Remind your tenants about the terms of the lease regarding rental payments. If you decide to give your tenants the option of paying their back rent, you must notify them in writing. This is a protection for you if something goes wrong.

3. Deliver a Notice to Vacate


In Texas, the eviction notice is called a Notice to Vacate. Whether or not you intend to follow through with an actual eviction, it is a good idea to deliver a Notice to Vacate to your renters.

Following steps toward an eviction can protect your interests, even if you eventually work things out with the tenants. Keep in mind that eviction procedures vary from state to state. For a property located in the state of Texas, it is important to hire an attorney licensed in Texas.

If you intend to give your tenants the option of paying back rent, make sure you deliver a letter to that effect before filing the Notice to Vacate. When a tenant pays back rent in full, eviction proceedings stop. The Notice to Vacate can provide the tenant with the option of paying up or moving out if you agree. A typical Notice to Vacate gives the tenant three days to pay rent owed, but the lease can designate a longer or shorter period of time.

4. Follow Through on the Eviction

If the tenant is unwilling or unable to pay the rent, you may be forced to follow through with an eviction. Deliver the Notice to Vacate properly by serving it personally, posting it inside the front door, or placing it outside the front door. Another option is to mail the Notice to Vacate by return receipt so you can prove the tenant received the notice.

When your tenant moves out, you may use the security deposit to cover any unpaid rent. If the security doesn’t cover all the rent and late charges, you can sue the tenant for the amount still owed. In the event that the tenant refuses to move out of the property, you can file a forcible detainer suit with the Texas justice court.

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