We realize that nearly all landlords rely on the incoming rent to pay the mortgage on their rental property. Because any delay with rental payments can cause stress and have a financial impact on the landlord, we take rent collection very seriously. We have put the following process in place to ensure that tenants know how important on-time payments are:
- Onboarding information - When tenants move into one of our managed properties, we verbally review our policy on rent collection and provide a written statement regarding the importance of on-time payments. We also require tenants to pay via our online portal.
- Reminder emails - Rent is due on the first of each month with a grace period through the fifth of each month. If we have not received rent by the afternoon of the fifth, we send out a polite reminder notice encouraging the tenant to make a prompt payment in order to avoid a late fee.
- Late fees – If the tenant has still not paid rent by the sixth at 9AM, we assess a 10% late fee (or another amount as dictated in the lease). The tenant receives an email advising that a late fee has been added to their ledger.
- Notice of Material Non-Compliance – If the tenant has still not paid by the 7th (or next business day following a weekend or holiday), we issue a 14-Day Notice of Material Non-Compliance. This notice informs the tenant that if rent is not received in 14 days, we will be taking further legal action to obtain a judgement and possession of the property. This notice is sent to the tenant via email and posted at the property by the Sheriff. (Note that this was previously a 5-Day Notice but was changed to a 14-Day Notice by a recent change in Virginia Law. All required disclosures are also provided to the tenant in accordance with that recent law change).
- Filing for Unlawful Detainer – If the tenant has still not paid rent after the 14-Day Notice period has expired, we will file for an Unlawful Detainer Hearing with the Clerk of the Court. The hearing is typically scheduled about 3 weeks from the filing date.
- First Return Hearing – We will attend the First Return Hearing to request a judgement and possession of the property. Depending on the tenant’s responses at that hearing, the next step could be that possession/judgement is awarded, or a trial is scheduled, or the hearing is continued (rescheduled) for a later date.
- Support Trial if Needed – If a trial is needed, a property manager cannot represent a landlord and an attorney will be required. We will recommend a local attorney, provide the attorney with all required documentation, and serve as a witness at the trial.
- Filing Writ of Possession – Once possession of the property is awarded back to the landlord, we will file the necessary paperwork to coordinate the lock-out with the Sheriff.
- Lock Out – The Sheriff will let us know 72 hours before the lock-out is scheduled and will post a notice for the tenant. We will encourage the tenant to leave before the lock-out is scheduled to avoid that emotional impact of that process, especially if children are in the home. We will meet the Sheriff and schedule a locksmith to change the locks once the Sheriff has ensured the home has been fully vacated.
- Collections – If the balance due and costs of damages exceeds the security deposit, we will assist with filing to get an additional judgement (where possible) and will refer the landlord to an attorney who can assist with the collections process.
New landlords sometimes feel that this process is a bit aggressive and that we should allow for some flexibility. Due the lengthy process, it is critical that we start the process as soon as possible to ensure that legal action can be taken before the tenant gets further behind in their rent. In our experience, if a tenant gets more than a month late on rent, it is seldom possible for them to get caught up and back on track. Note that there is ample time and opportunity for a tenant to make payment and stop the legal process.
Fortunately, due to the strict qualifying criteria that we use when processing applications, less than one percent of our tenants have been evicted in any one year. If you have any specific questions regarding rent payments from your tenants, please contact Michele at 703-963-6540.