A Pay Rent or Quit Notice is a legal notice issued by a landlord to a tenant who has defaulted in paying rent as agreed upon in the rental lease. In most cases, a Pay Rent or Quit Notice precedes an eviction notice. However, this does not mean that all tenants served with a Pay Rent or Quit Notice are evicted. They have the option to pay the outstanding rental amount within the specified time given on the Notice or break the lease by quitting.
Local State laws dictate the number of days prior to eviction for you to serve a Pay Rent or Quit Notice. The most commonly used law requires a three-day notice. Check out this short video by American Landlord which gives you an overview of this very important document.
With a pay rent or quit notice, rental property owners are able to nudge their tenants to bring their rental payments up to speed and avoid the messy process of applying for an eviction notice with the courts.
Is a Pay Rent or Quit Notice legally Enforceable?
A Pay Rent or Quit Notice is a means of imposing on a lease agreement which is a legally binding document. The law actually permits the use of this notice to demand late rent payment and as the first step before an eviction process.
One must be keen to avoid some small mistakes that may invalidate a Pay Rent or Quit Notice. These are:
- Not having the Notice written in a proper manner to capture its key elements.
- Delivering/serving it in a wrongful manner
- Wrongful representation of the amounts owed.
Why landlords issue a Pay Rent or Quit Notice
Landlords are in business when renting out their property. They want a return on their investment. Some have mortgages on the property that they are renting out which they have to pay. Rental payments collected from the tenants occupying the property go towards this return on investment or to payment of mortgages. The law protects landlords from tenants who would want to contravene the agreement, as stated on the lease document between them. It is, therefore, within the rights of a landlord to issue notices for termination of this agreement for cause and upon following necessary steps, file for the eviction of the client.
One of these steps is to send a Pay Rent or Quit Notice. When a tenant is late in paying one month’s rent, the landlord can remind them over the phone or mail to do so without issuing a notice. However, if it becomes habitual and exceeds one month, that’s when he can issue a Pay Rent or Quit Notice.
The circumstances on when to issue a Pay Rent or Quit Notice are also guided by the lease agreement from the clause on the rent grace period. The grace period differs from state to state ranging from 5 to 30 days. Within this period, a tenant is not charged any penalties or extra fees on the rent payable neither is he in violation of the lease agreement. Laws vary from state to state whether he may be served with a Pay Rent or Quit Notice within this period
It is important for landlords to do the following when/before issuing a Pay Rent or Quit Notice:
- Behave or communicate in a manner that is not harassing the tenant in attempts to collect outstanding rent. A tenant can take legal action against a landlord whose actions amount to harassment.
2. Have a record of all communication interactions (calls, emails, letters, verbal) made to and from the tenant with regards to late rent payments.
3. Maintain a proper record of previous rent amounts paid, including when paid, how(method), and how much (if included any penalties or any other extra fees).
4. Have consistent communication with the tenant, e.g., not provide for extra time to pay for rent in some months and less for other times.
How to issue a Pay Rent or Quit Notice
When issuing a pay are or quit Notice, the following is an acceptable procedure to follow. We will detail that procedure in this section. But first, check out this 5-minute video from FastEvict which gives you an overview of what you need to prepare before serving this notice.
Write out the Notice
While different states might have different ways of drafting a Pay Rent or Quit Notice, a good notice should capture the following:
- The date of the Notice.
- A notice period, i.e., a specific time frame to pay the rent and any actionable items to follow if this is not met.
In most cases, this is written in bold at the top of the notice. For example, 3 DAY NOTICE TO PAY RENT OR QUIT. Also include the number of days the notice will serve for the tenant to pay rent or quit.
3. A proper property description including address, unit/house number.
4. A list of all the occupants as listed on the lease agreement with their address information.
5. The total amount of outstanding rent and month(s) in which it is applicable.
6. Detail any extra fees applicable, e.g., penalties.
7. Indicate when the outstanding amounts are due and the method of paying.
8. State a clear account of the reason(s) why the notice is being issued.
9. To make the document official, if you're only a manager for a rental property, make sure that the landlord’s signature is included. In most states though it suffices that any other party acting as the landlord’s representative e.g. Property agents/managers sign the document.
Serve the Notice
Landlords should follow the local state laws to best inform on how to deliver the Pay Rent or Quit Notice. If you are not sure, you can consult with an attorney specializing in landlord-tenant laws. Most state laws require the Pay Rent or Quit Notice to be delivered in either of the following ways:
- Formally serve the Notice to the tenant through the use of a state marshal
- Send via a first-class mail
- Deliver in-person to the tenant’s house or workplace.
- If the tenant is not available, a landlord can post/leave it on the tenant’s door or any other clearly visible place within the rental property.
Once you serve the notice, it is important to communicate with the tenant only in writing. In this short video by RentLikeAPro, you will learn how this will help eliminate unnecessary negotiation that goes beyond the four walls of your contract and keep the eviction process documented for you.
What happens after a Pay Rent or Quit Notice has been issued?
For the Landlord
We mentioned earlier on in this guide that a Pay Rent or Quit Notice is the first legal action by a landlord before eviction. Therefore, the options available to the landlord are; to wait for the notice period to lapse. If no action has been made by the tenant, then he can start the eviction process.
A landlord can be lenient to a tenant who communicates to have an arrangement of clearing the outstanding amount outside the notice period. However, they are not obligated to and can continue with eviction through filing for an unlawful detainer as the first step.
For the Tenant
A tenant also has limited options once they receive a Pay Rent or Quit Notice. They either pay the rent outstanding before the notice period, vacate the premises through quitting or wait for an eviction.
Once a tenant pays the outstanding rent, the eviction process terminates, and they resume their normal lease agreement. Some state laws allow for a tenant to pay rent within the notice period (the first day begins on the date the Notice was issued) with other outstanding fees or penalties being paid later. This means a tenant cannot be evicted for not paying applicable fees within the notice period.
Also, if a tenant pays a partial amount of what is outstanding, a landlord has to issue a new notice before evicting them. If you are reading this guide as a tenant at a rental property, check out this 2-minute guide by Mesa Properties. While it focuses on California Laws, much of the advice can be applied regardless of state. This can help you know how to respond when you are served a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit.
If a tenant chooses to break the lease agreement by quitting and does not follow the agreement laid out in this event, they risk having a bad review from the landlord and also have this reflect on their credit report. This may make it very hard for them to get a tenancy in another property. The landlord can also sue them for further outstanding amounts not recoverable from the security deposit.
In the event a tenant does nothing and the notice period lapses, the landlord must sue them in a court of law and be successful in the eviction lawsuit. It is unlawful for landlords to use dubious methods to evict tenants. For example; forceful removal of a tenant’s properties, cutting down on utilities like water, electricity, etc., changing locks or blocking access to the property. These can be treated as harassment and a tenant can sue for damages.
Some tenants may abuse this option to buy time for the landlord to win the eviction lawsuit while they enjoy staying without paying rent. This is not advisable at all because it can lead to more losses and greatly affect future tenancy.