Being a landlord who owns a property investment is in itself a huge hassle. However, having a tenant who doesn't pay his rent might be, sometimes, a nightmare! Whether it is the first time for your tenant to face you with a past-due payment or your tenant has a long history of paying late, we bring you a comprehensive guide on what to do if a tenant doesn't pay and how to handle this issue. Here you will find a simple-steps process outlining the actions you can take when your tenant doesn't pay or pays late.

Check the payment records and lease documents

It may seem a little bit senseless, but double-check your payment records to make sure the tenant is really late with their rent. Landlords keep better records on paper than they do in their heads and can be mistaken as to when something was (or was not) paid.

In most cases, it is not legally required that the tenant has a certain grace period to pay rent, the majority of leases in Bahrain contain a clause giving tenants two weeks period to pay rent after the normal due date. If you’ve double-checked and found that yes, the tenant is indeed late, then you’re bound to the provisions agreed upon in the lease.

The lease usually specifies a late fee, but if it doesn’t, then you can’t retroactively change your mind and decide to charge one. And don't forget that, no matter how you personally feel about any late rent situation, a late payment is still a violation of the lease that was signed by all parties and this makes it a breach of contract.

Take stock of the situation

Consider the history of your tenant. Is this the first time they missed a rent payment? If yes, you can typically handle it with a written reminder or email. Also, check the lease agreement, which usually includes a late-fee policy that provides a framework for how to proceed. However, if it's not the first time for the tenant to miss a rent payment, then you have a couple of actions to take.

Call the tenant and talk to him/ her

Quickly contact your tenant either on the phone or by paying them a visit to find out why they didn’t pay the rent. You might hear something you didn’t expect like: There's a bank error or the tenant forgot the rent payment date. Whatever the reason, make it clear that the rent must be paid on time.

Always remember that you have to act quickly and be both respectful and firm at the same time. You don’t want the renter to be late again, and you don’t want to get a reputation as a pushover.

If the tenant is broke, you most likely won’t be paid, so consider saying that you’re willing to let them out of their lease early without penalty if they leave by the end of the week. If they don’t want to do that, let them know that you’ll be giving them a formal eviction notice.

Send a "pay or quit" notice

Send your tenant a notice to "pay or quit" when they fail to pay rent. A "pay or quit" notice is a formal letter (or email) that says: "You forgot to pay your rent! You have X days to pay it in full, or your lease will be terminated and you’ll have to move out."

This (X) notice period is in the range of two weeks. If they don’t pay or move out, then you can formally terminate their agreement and they lose the right to occupy the dwelling. If they still refuse to leave, then you have to file an action with your local eviction court.

If the issue proceeds to court, landlords may have to prove that they made a good faith effort to make sure the tenant received the notice.

Pay the tenant to move out

If your tenant doesn’t pay the rent after your talk and "pay or quit" notice, you still have a chance to avoid the eviction process. Consider making a deal if your tenant isn’t paying the rent because of financial problems. They might be motivated to move quickly if you pay them.

You might think this idea feels a little bit wrong: They owe you money, so why should you pay them? You need to get your emotions out of this, and weigh the costs and benefits in a business-like manner to help you make the decision. An eviction will get the tenant out but it will not be immediate. Check with your jurisdiction to find out how long evictions typically take. Evictions generally take longer than you want to wait, typically one to three months!

If your tenant leaves immediately because you paid them, you will probably be better off, not to mention the stress you’ll save yourself over the next month or more from going through the eviction process then trying to collect on the judgment.

File an eviction action

If all of the above fails, it’s time to start eviction proceedings. If you have a rogue tenant, you might have to go down to your local courthouse and fill out the proper paperwork for an eviction hearing. They will likely want to see the “Notice to Pay or Quit” that you sent, so be sure to bring it with you.

Once you pay the court fees, the administrator will schedule your hearing. Then, show up on your court date, explain your case, and hopefully, you will win a judgment against the tenant. You’ll have to wait through lengthy court proceedings. Just remember to keep your cool and consult an eviction lawyer who can guide you through the process.

Don't forget that it is never acceptable or legal to lock someone out, move personal belongings, or shut off utilities before the eviction process is complete. If you win the eviction judgment, you can enlist law enforcement to remove the tenant by force.

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