What Should Landlords Do if Tenants Don’t Pay Rent? Advice from Santa Clara County Property Manager

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The most common reason for eviction is the failure of a tenant to pay rent. Tenancy is an investment and if your tenant doesn’t pay rent, you can lose your property.

So, what actions should you take if a tenant fails to pay rent?

The first thing you want to do if your tenant is late on the rent, according to Real Estate Connections, Los Gatos Property Management Company, is give them a call. If you find yourself in this position just say, “Hi, the rent didn’t come in, just wanted to see if everything is okay.”

Often times people overlook it. Perhaps they went on vacation or honestly forgot; either way there are numerous excuses that may be made. However, if you have a good tenant who responds and tells you, “Oh I’m sorry, I’ll come and pay it,” you shouldn’t have any future problems.

Any tenant who keeps an open line of communication with you is a tenant that will typically get the rent out on time.

So give them a call, be cordial about it and don’t come off like a debt collector; simple.

On the other hand, a landlord can be facing tenant issues in which the tenant did not reply and continues to not pay rent. In this case you should probably begin the steps toward a landlord-tenant eviction and process and deliver a Three-day notice to pay or quit.

This is a legal document that allows you to move forward with an eviction or moving somebody out if you ultimately had to. The notice gives the tenant a chance to correct the situation by paying the rent that is due. If they pay within the three days, the tenancy continues.

There are several ways, according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, a landlord can serve a tenant a Three-day notice to pay or quit:

Personal Service – The landlord serving the tenant must hand the notice directly to the tenant, however, they can refuse. The three-day period can only begin after the tenant receives the notice.

Substituted Service or another person – If the landlord can’t find the rental property, the landlord should try and serve the tenant personally at work. If the landlord can’t find the tenant’s home or work, the landlord can use “substituted service” instead of serving the tenant personally. Person serving must be 18-years-old or older.

Posting and mailing – If the landlord can’t serve the notice on the tenant personally or by substituted service, the notice can be served by taping or tacking a copy to the rental unit in a conspicuous place (such as the front door of the rental unit) and by mailing another copy to the tenant at the rental unit’s address.

When you do serve your tenant, the notice must include a demand on the precise amount due, with instructions on where to pay it, an unequivocal demand for possession if the rent is not paid within three days of service of the notice, the date of the notice and the signature of the landlord or property manager for the landlord.

What if the tenant does not pay within the three-day period and will not vacate the property?

Then the moment the three-day period is over, the tenant no longer has rights to occupy the residence. At this time you will have to face one landlord issue no one wishes to encounter; eviction.

If you are at the point of eviction then this is your final resort. Although this situation can be tedious California has become must better on getting a tenant out in a more timely fashion.

In these situations your best bet is to hire an eviction attorney to handle the process for you. Of course a property management company can also assist you with these things and help get tenants, who aren’t paying, out in a legal matter with an eviction attorney.

If you have any questions about the eviction process, please feel free to contact us.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Terri Alcala

    Well put! Communication is key. If you have great tenants and they are late with payments one time, there is no reason to jump into eviction until it is truly necessary. Eviction is expensive but on the other hand a property owner loses money everyday a tenant does not pay rent. I have included a link to my blog on this topic. Take a look and I would love to hear your thoughts.



  • Matt Fonk

    Eviction is the hardest part of a Property Manager’s job and if at all possible best to avoid. I like your point about communication because communication is crucial. If this person has been a good tenant for a long time and has come onto hard times, we recommend trying to work things out as opposed to jumping into an eviction.


  • Keith Becker

    Good information regarding the 3 day notice. It allows a good tenant time to react and if the tenant is evasive, it allows the landlord to legally start the eviction process — the document provides a solution either way. We’ve covered some of these issued in one of our blogs, here’s a link if you’re interested:



  • Tressa Rossi

    Keeping an open communication with a tenant is key, even if you still have to evict them the process will happen less painfully. No matter how hard you try, eviction may be inevitable and it seems like you got things covered in Los Gatos.

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