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When tenants don't pay

If you are a Queens landlord, it's certain you've had your share of problem tenants. Unauthorized subletting, slow-pay and no-pay tenants all give New York City landlords headaches.

When the issue is that your tenant quit paying the rent, there is a clear path to eviction. But landlords must first lay the groundwork to make sure that they prevail in the eviction. Below are some suggestions for building a strong eviction case.

Don't drag your feet

Desperate tenants often weave fantastic stories about elusive tax refunds and missing paychecks that never seem to come to fruition. While some hard-luck stories are just that, other tales of woe are cut from whole cloth.

Waiting longer than the grace period for your rent only breeds complacency in rent-averse tenants. Although you may want to overlook a single lapse, continuing to accept late rental payments without tacking on late fees or having the tenant experience other negative consequences sets a pattern of leniency you may later regret.

Document each instance of late rent

Send your tenants "Late Rent Notices" so that they know that you are aware of the breach of their lease. Document each instance. For many tenants, that may be all the prompting you'll need to do.

Follow up with a phone call

Within a few days of the delivery or posting of the late rent notice, call your tenant if the rent is still outstanding. Finding out what the problem is can help you determine your next move.

Call your attorney

This is generally the point at which most landlords loop in their attorneys. Prior to the actual eviction notice being posted, some landlords have their attorneys send warning letters to tenants that detail the total sums, plus late fees, that the tenants now owe or face eviction unless immediately paid.

If you choose to go this route, ask your attorney to draft the letter to reflect some of the adverse consequences evicted tenants face, e.g., being reported to credit bureaus, blacklisted from renting locally, etc.

Head to court

You definitely should seek legal guidance when going to court on an eviction unless you are very familiar with the eviction process. You wouldn't want to lose to a wily tenant because you did not file the correct paperwork or some other clerical error.

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