How to Get Your Landlord to Cut You Some Slack If You’re Late Paying Rent

You’re trying to be a good tenant, you really are. But your boss made you fly out-of-town on a business trip, and between meetings and presentations, you just forgot to pay the rent by the first of the month. Whoops!

If you’re already on strong footing with your landlord, though, you might be able to charm your way out of a late fee. Here are tips that can inspire your landlord to forgive the late rent, and perhaps even waive the fee.

#1: Be Accessible

As soon as you realize that you can’t pay rent on-time, inform your landlord immediately. Then answer your phone (or respond quickly to email) every time the landlord tries to contact you. In other words: Be upfront and easily-accessible.

Why? Tenants who skip out on the rent usually go AWOL. They screen their phone calls and quit answering knocks on their door. (Think about it: How often have you seen people dodging phone calls from collectors?)

Landlords hate the anxiety that comes with repeatedly trying to call a tenant, only to get sent to voicemail every time. It’s time-consuming, nerve-wrecking and distracting.

By virtue of picking up the phone receiver, you’re sending your landlord a clear message: I’m not going to disappear. I’m not going to make you chase me down, and I won’t make you waste precious hours trying to get ahold of me. I’m pro-active and responsive.

Your landlord will appreciate this tremendously — and may cut you some slack as a result.

#2: Tell Your Landlord as Far in Advance as Possible

Don’t wait until your rental due date to break the news. Instead, tell your landlord as far in advance as possible. Then continually update your landlord about your ability to pay the rent (without needing to be prompted).

Why? Believe it or not, your landlord (probably) isn’t a mega-baller who’s swimming in fountains of gold. Your landlord relies on your rent to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance, repairs, maintenance, bookkeeper, accountant, business fees, and a whole laundry list of other operating costs.

By telling your landlord as early as possible, you’ll give her time to plan ahead. She might have enough time to shuffle money between accounts, or pull from savings, so that she can pay her bills.

And even if your “landlord” is a faceless mega-company, like a major development corporation, the employee who maintains the books will appreciate not needing to scramble at the last minute to account for the lost rent.

Plus, by giving your landlord early-warning, you’re indicating that you’re upfront and communicative — which is a major plus.

Bottom line: If you want to score brownie points, communicate early and often.

#3: Make a Good-Faith Effort

Let’s assume that you can’t pay the rent on-time because you’re out-of-town, and you forgot to drop off a check before you left.

Call your landlord and suggest a handful of alternate solutions. Can you initiate a wire transfer? Can you send this month’s payment through Paypal, Dwolla or Venmo? Can you snail-mail a check?

Even if these alternate solutions aren’t viable, your landlord will (probably) appreciate that you’re making a good-faith effort to pay the rent on time. And as a result, your landlord may be more likely to waive the late fee.

#4: Don’t Make Excuses

Landlords and property managers are used to hearing excuses for why the rent is late, including:

  • I’m switching jobs and therefore didn’t get paid this month.
  • My roommate (who isn’t on the lease) moved out, and I can’t afford full rent.
  • Um, I mailed it… didn’t you get it?

Yes, sometimes misfortune happens. But you signed a legally-binding agreement: You promised to pay rent in exchange for a place to live. And your landlord can’t call their bank to say, “Sorry, I can’t make the mortgage payment this month; my tenant’s roommate moved out.”

If you’re facing a serious financial crisis, ask your landlord if you can schedule a time to sit down together and discuss your situation. If you’re grappling with a genuine problem, don’t just call to say “rent will be late” — ask for a long-term, structured solution.

And if you aren’t facing a real problem — if you simply forgot to mail the check — then just ‘fess up to the facts, without making excuses. Your landlord will appreciate your honesty, and might even cut you some slack.