Real estate Q&A: As evictions restart, how should a landlord handle a tenant who hasn’t paid in months?

·2 min read

Q: Now that evictions are resuming, I need to deal with my tenant who is over six months behind. I have continued paying the mortgage, but it has not been easy. I need the cash flow from a paying tenant before I end up in foreclosure. Is there anything that I should know? —Peter

A: The recent Supreme Court decision about the CDC’s eviction moratorium removed the federal roadblock to evicting tenants who did not pay their rent.

While most tenants who stopped paying did so for valid reasons, the moratorium banned evictions, not paying rent or abiding by the lease agreement.

Tenants still had to maintain the home and pay the rent. When they stopped paying the landlord, the missed payments starting accruing, and their debt to the landlord grew.

Many tenants who relied on this protection face an insurmountable debt due to back-owed rent.

Even with the CDC moratorium lifted, several states and many municipalities still have restrictions in place. Before you do anything, you need to ensure that you do not live in one of these jurisdictions.

If you have the green light where you live, you need to follow the traditional steps, such as posting a notice and filing a lawsuit.

You will also need to decide whether to take the more straightforward route of only regaining possession or the longer path of seeking money damages for the back rent.

When making this decision, consider your tenant's financial situation.

While many people genuinely could not afford to pay their rent due to the COVID-19 crisis, some exploited their situation by not paying rent they could afford.

Other tenants found steady work recently as the economy reopened.

If your tenant has a regular job or valuable possessions, it may be worth getting a money judgment and trying to collect.

A note of caution: Many landlords have historically felt comfortable filing eviction lawsuits themselves, but the current climate is fraught with traps and obstacles. It would be wise to consult an experienced attorney if you are unsure of what to do.

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