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Wrench in the Rent Plan

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Posted On: 10/06/2010

QUESTION:

We rent a house from a private owner. We have been tenants for a number of years and have never missed a payment. However, the state agency that uses my services has changed its payment schedule, and the result is that I won't have this month's rent on time or anywhere close - though I will get it eventually. I don't want to be evicted. What should I do?

ANSWER:

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The economy is changing, and many people who felt a certain level of financial security have now seen it slip away. Even sure-fire clients like big companies and government agencies are no longer so certain.

You and the property owner have mutual interests. You want the best shelter you can find at the lowest cost. The owner wants steady income to pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes and other bills. When a payment is missed everyone needs to figure out a logical resolution.

Most likely, the solution works like this: Call the owner as soon as possible to explain the situation. Have a strategy in place: Maybe you can pay the missing money later in the month, maybe over a period of months, maybe half now. Tell the owner if you will be able to pay the next month's rent on time.

Effectively, you're asking the owner for a loan - a loan the owner does not have to provide. Your lease likely says the owner has the right to a late fee for the missed money; if so, offer to pay it and explain when the payment will be made. The betting here is that the property owner has no interest in an eviction and will work out a payment plan. Why? You have a good track record with the owner, no landlord wants vacancies, and next month's rent will be paid in full and on time. Given the real-life options of the new economy, the landlord should be happy that you offered a sensible solution.

Peter G. Miller is the author of The Common-Sense Mortgage and a veteran real estate columnist. Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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