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What to do when you get a partial rent payment from a tenant

puzzle house with missing piece
by Jeff Rohde, posted in Investment Strategy

If you are a landlord, you know rent payments are usually due on the first of the month. But what do you do if a tenant pays only partial rent? Can you evict them? Can you work out a payment plan for the remainder? What are your options? 

In this post, we will discuss what to do if your tenant makes a partial rent payment. We will also talk about how online rent payment systems can be set up to prohibit partial rent payments from tenants. Finally, we will discuss how thorough tenant screening can help you avoid tenants who can’t pay rent.

Key takeaways

  • When a partial rent payment is received from a tenant, a landlord may agree to a payment plan, demand payment in full, or begin the eviction process.
  • Local and state landlord-tenant laws regulate how and if a tenant may be evicted for making a partial rent payment.
  • Avoid partial rent payments with good tenant screening, online rent payment apps, and knowledge of red flags that indicate a tenant may be having financial problems.


What to do if your tenant makes a partial rent payment

If a tenant makes a partial rent payment, the landlord has a few options. The landlord can accept the partial payment and work with the tenant to make up the rest or reject the payment and begin the eviction process

If the landlord chooses to accept the partial payment, it is vital to put this agreement in writing and have both parties sign it to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings down the road. 

If the landlord chooses to reject the partial payment, they will need to provide the tenant with a written notice stating that the rent is overdue, and eviction proceedings will begin if payment is not received within a specific timeframe. 

Following these steps can protect both landlords and tenants in the event of a partial rent payment.

If you choose to apply a late fee to a partial rent payment, make sure that you do so fairly and objectively. You may also consider waiving a late fee if you believe there is a reasonable explanation for why the rent payment was made late (e.g., illness, family emergency). 


lease agreement

Steps to follow with partial rent payment from a tenant

1. Check your lease agreement to see if there are any specific instructions for what to do when a tenant makes a partial rent payment

Many leases have specific terms and conditions regarding how rent payments should be made and what happens if a tenant makes a partial payment. If your lease does not have provisions, consult your state landlord-tenant laws to determine your rights and obligations. 

In general, landlords have the right to refuse partial rent payments and require tenants to pay the total amount due. If you do accept a partial rent payment, get a written receipt from the tenant to avoid confusion about what was paid and when.

2. Notify the tenant in writing that you received payment and remind them of the total amount they still owe

Life can be unpredictable, and sometimes tenants cannot pay in full and on time. If this happens, landlords need to take steps to protect their interests. 

Notify the tenant in writing that you have received payment and remind them of the total amount they still owe. This notice should be sent as soon as possible after the partial rent payment is received so the tenant is aware of their outstanding balance. 

Include a date by which the balance must be paid in full. Remind the tenant that failure to do so may result in late fees or eviction proceedings. 

3. Start eviction proceedings if the tenant doesn’t pay the remaining balance within a reasonable timeframe

Give the tenant notice by posting a notice on the door or sending a certified letter. The notice should state the amount of rent owed and give the tenant a date by which the balance must be paid. If the tenant doesn’t pay by that date, the landlord can start eviction proceedings. 

File a complaint with the court and have the summons served to the tenant. Once the tenant has been served, they will have a certain number of days to respond. If they don’t respond, the landlord can request a default judgment from the court. 

Once the judgment is granted, an eviction notice providing the tenant with a set amount of time to vacate the premises can be issued. 

For more information on evictions, landlords should consult their state’s landlord-tenant laws or consult with an attorney with experience in evictions. The legal resource website also maintains a list of how to evict a tenant in each state.

4. Keep good records of all communication with the tenant, including payments made and any notices or letters sent

Keep a record of communications in case a dispute occurs. 

There are several options for storing landlord-tenant documents, including physical filing systems and online cloud-based storage systems. For example, after signing up for a free account with Stessa, a Roofstock company, landlords can organize and store important real estate documents and tenant notices online.

Keep documents organized and easily accessible to avoid problems down the road.

5. Consider seeking legal advice if you have questions 

A partial rent payment can be a delicate situation for a landlord. On the one hand, the landlord may be desperate for any type of rental income and tempted to accept partial payment. On the other hand, the landlord may worry that taking a partial payment will set a precedent and make it harder to enforce the lease in the future. 

An experienced attorney can advise the landlord on their rights and help them make the right decision for their situation. 

In many cases, it is best to reject partial payment and send a notice to the tenant informing them that they are in violation of their rental agreement. This will give the tenant a clear understanding of the consequences of not paying rent in full and may encourage them to make full rental payments in the future. 

However, each situation is different, and landlords should seek legal counsel before taking action.


Tips for avoiding partial and late rent payments 

Thoroughly screen your tenants before you agree to rent to them. Check their credit history and rental history, and make sure you’re comfortable with their current employment situation. 

It’s also a good idea to accept online rent payments, which can make it easier for tenants to pay on time. Stessa’s rent collection feature makes it easy for tenants, and it automates key tasks like deposits, receipts, and accounting. Stessa online rent collection is a win-win and is free for both landlords and tenants.

There are also red flags that may indicate a tenant is having difficulty paying the rent. For example, if they regularly ask for extensions on their payment date or if they seem to be struggling to make ends meet, these may be warning signs. 

If you’re concerned about a tenant’s ability to pay the rent, address it as soon as possible. 


Final thoughts

Landlords who accept partial rent payments from renters may find themselves in a difficult situation. If you are unsure of what to do, consider seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney.  Each situation is different, and landlords need to consider their options when a partial rent payment is received from a tenant.


Stessa is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by Blue Ridge Bank N.A., Member FDIC.

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