Tip #60

Don’t Accept a Partial Rent Payment After the Due Date

Written on April 21, 2016 by , updated on May 15, 2017

Partial Rent PaymentsYou want to be a nice and understanding landlord. When your tenant asks if they can make a partial rent payment, what should you do?

It’s easy to get sucked in by sympathy when your tenant tells you that they just had their hours cut on the job or that they fell ill and have medical bills.

There might be an occasion where accepting a partial rent payment on the due date could work out. If your tenant has been renting from you for several years and has never been late, you might want to give this excellent tenant a chance to catch up and let them make a partial rent payment on the due date for maybe one time. This tenant has proven to be trustworthy, after all.

If You Agree to Accept a Partial Rent Payment

If you agree to accept a partial rent payment on the due date, put in writing what the arrangement is. State the amount of rent the tenant pays you (the partial amount) and the date that the balance is due. If you charge a late fee per your lease, also specify whether you will be charging the late fee and the amount or whether you will be waiving the late fee. Sign this notice, and have your tenant sign it as well.

Related: What to Do and Not to Do If You Can’t Pay Rent on Time

It’s acceptable to allow partial rent payments before the due date.

Fall Back on Your Lease

Your lease probably states when rent is due each month, such as on the first day of the month or on the 15th of each month. Having language about when rent is due each month means you don’t also need a clause that addresses partial rent payments.

But if you don’t want to accept partial rent payments and feel as if you want some backup (maybe because you’re a big softie who can never say “no”), go ahead and include language in your lease that prohibits tenants from making partial rent payments. It could be something along these lines:

I usually outline all possible solutions including:

  1. Hefty one-time & daily late fee
  2. Lease termination
  3. Eviction / Judgment
  4. Damage to Credit
  5. Collections / Garnishments

When to Accept Partial Rent Payments

While it’s generally a best practice to not accept partial payments on the due date or during an eviction, it’s perfectly acceptable to allow partial payments before the due date — as long as your tenants pay in full by the due date.

In roommate situations, it’s okay to accept partial payments from each of the roommates, as long as the total rent due is paid by the due date.

All online property management softwares, like Cozy, allow tenants to make partial payments, so they roommates can pay in portions. But once the due date hits, you should still enforce your late fee policy if the total amount due is not paid. This happens sometimes in roommate situations where three roommates pay on time but the forth forgets. In that case, the whole group gets assigned a late fee, according to the lease. Personally, I just mandate that my tenants setup automatic payments in Cozy, so they can’t forget.

Note: Cozy allows for partial payments. Cozy also has a feature to let you stop payments and terminate the lease in the case of an eviction. This prevents tenants from paying a nominal sum, such as $1, just to delay eviction. It’s a nice feature.

Why It’s Bad to Accept a Partial Rent Payment

The reason it isn’t a good idea to accept a partial rent payment on the due date is that if your tenant can’t afford the rent this month, they’re likely to not be able to afford it next month. The longer you let this go on, the further behind they’ll get on paying you your rent.

Before you know it, your tenant can get seriously behind in rent payments.

Another reason not to allow a partial rent payment, even for a good tenant, is if you have multiple properties. It’s not good practice to have different rent policies. If you start letting one tenant make partial payments and not your others, and your other tenants somehow find out, you could be accused of discrimination.

This Is Your Business

When tenants have financial difficulties, they probably need to prioritize which payments they must make and which they can slide on a bit. If they don’t make their car payment, their car will be repossessed. If they don’t pay their credit card, they’ll hurt their credit score. So they might test the waters to see whether you’ll be the creditor they can put on the back burner.

If you let tenants slide on rent, then you’ll probably see partial payments and late payments pretty regularly.

You, as a landlord, likely depend on getting your full rent payment on time so that you can pay the mortgage. You can’t very well go to your bank and offer a partial mortgage payment. In fact, the mortgage company will send back the partial payment!

But if your tenant makes partial payments throughout the month, that’s okay, as long as you get your full rent by the due date.

Remember that you’re running a business, and doing so requires that you have rules and that your tenants abide by them or they will, unfortunately, need to leave.

A good motto to memorize is “If you can’t pay, you can’t stay.”

Check the Law

Here’s some more food for thought: In some jurisdictions (you’ll need to check your state law on this), if you accept partial rent payment, you might not be able to evict your tenant if, despite what they told you, they never got around to paying the balance.

If you accepted an amount less than the full amount, you will waive your right to collect full payment for that month in some jurisdictions.

Bottom Line

If you can’t pay, you can’t stay.

The phrases, nice guys finish last and no good deed goes unpunished are famous phrases for a reason. If you veer from your rental agreement and start letting tenants slide on rent payments by letting them make a partial payment on the due date, you might soon be out of the landlord business.

But it’s okay to accept partial payments with the caveat that if a tenant doesn’t pay the whole thing by the due date, they will get a late fee and possibly a “notice to pay or quit.” And during an eviction, you should refuse all payments (partial or full) until the court hearing.

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75 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Nichole Cotugno

    Putting people out when they fall on bad times is your job! That is so wrong. You could at least work with them on your terms for a short time. Saying that makes you sound more like a tyrant than a landlord!

    • JoJo

      Oh wow, I agree with you. That is bad advice and sounds like she’s never experienced hard times. Lacks empathy. Has always had her way and probably jumps at the opportunity to kick a sleeping homeless person as she walks by in disgust.

      • Nichole

        Right! Every one falls on hard times at some point or another. I totally understand that a landlord has to pay the mortgage on the rental property. However, they are making a profit from the property that you are renting or else what would be the point of being a landlord. So there must be some way they could work with their tentant. Especially when it’s a long-term tenant who has always paid the rent. Also I that you can pay your mortgage a little late without the bank foreclosing on your house. I came across this site looking for info because my landlord is a big a hole and refuses to give me rent receipts and now says I owe him $400 more than I do.

        • Nichole

          Grammar error , It should say ” also I KNOW that ….. “

          • Lisa Jay

            No Landlords make profit. It takes 20 years of renting before it breaks even, the only thing is that they will have a property to sell when they get old and end up in the nursing home.
            There are heavy maintenance expenses and Mortgage payments, insurances, vacancies, property management fees, Lawsuit costs and lots of Headaches…

        • Linda

          Nichole,

          not entirely true. I am a landlord and I am NOT making a profit on my property. I am simply renting my house out while I am living with my fiancée and we need larger house since we have a big family. We are planning to return to my house one day when kids are out of the house and we no longer need a large home to live in.
          I was looking for a tenant that will enjoy living in my house and will take a good care of it. Bottom line, she is late with payments or/and making only partial payments. I still have to pay my mortgage at the end of the month. Business is business. I have to protect myself and my family. I was nice and forgiving but enough is enough.

        • Louise

          That’s not always true. Sometimes its just so they can keep it until they can pay for it themselves. We rented out my mom’s house when she got sick. I wasn’t making enough to pay the mortgage so we lived with my aunt while my mom got her radiation treatments. She couldn’t work and it took three years before she got her disability. Then finally we could pay it again. Sometimes jerks wouldn’t pay and my mom would have to sell something to pay the mortgage or me and my aunt would have to go and clean up after they trashed it. People would tell her to sell it. No way!! We’d be living in a dumpy apartment and no money. It was hard but at least now we got something.
          So don’t judge they might be as broke as you or broker!

  • nino

    the problem with the tenant you let slide is they will continue to do this they will not pay your bills, as a landloard you have maintenance and taxes, insurance and mortgage to pay to name a few how fair is it that a landloard has to dig in his own pockets to pay for a property he is no occupying, I currently have to evict a tenant who both stopped paying on time and paying any f the late fees.

  • Shontel Robinson

    I moved in my apartment 11/22/19 I paid my 1st month rent witch was prorated that same day so now my landlord wants me to pay rent again by the 1st of each month but my move In date was the 22nd that’s not even 30 days of having my things In the apartment & she is talking about eviction but I’m not behind on rent

  • Jull

    If a tenant mails a payment after the 3 day pay or quit was served, what is the best way to not-accept it? How should I return the check ? Any written notice?

  • Rita

    I have given a non renewal year lease to a tenant – he pays electronically thru Zelle banking system. I fo not intend to renew the lease which ends 1/15/21 – I will give him notice 11/1/20 as he pays the 15th of each month. I understand not to accept any rent after 1/15/21 end of his lease. What if he pays it anyway and doesn’t leave – can I just return it and begin eviction?

  • Reese

    We started renting out our house in February. We have a property manager who ran credit check, called the old landlord, bank account, etc. The old landlord said she was a good tenant, but now we think he said that so he could get rid of her. March came, and she only paid partial payment. She does not want to deal with our property manager, so we ended up emailing her. We went back and forth and she basically said we will get our money. She still owes us $500 for March rent, including the late fee. It’s April, and she paid $195 before the grace period, then paid $200 on April 16th. We are in California, and our governor said we cannot evict anyone because of the pandemic and it’s effect on the economy. She works as an RN. What do we do?

  • Mark Wilson

    You are a real A-hole of a landlord.
    If you fall on hard times, I hope you beg for food outside a Walmart!

  • Emily

    I am a 5 year, pay on time tenant who has been approved for a one time covid rental assistance of $1500 payable directly to the rental office regarding my June rent (July rent paid on time and accepted). I have a money order for the remaining June balance but here is the caveat- the covid assistance won’t pay the apt office until apt office acknowledges the money order and the office office won’t acknowledge the money order bc it is a partial payment. Any ideas?

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