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How to Handle Tenants that Have Back Rent Due to COVID-19

by Kevin Kiene
rent due to covid-19 Corona virus

Over the past year, millions of Americans have faced lay-offs, reduced hours, medical bills, and financial stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic causing rent due issues for many renters across the country. For many, this means missed rent payments and large sums of back rent due.

For landlords, this presents a challenging situation. While it’s important to be empathetic to tenants’ very real struggles, the reality is that landlords still have to pay taxes, mortgages, and expenses. This tension can make things hard for landlords.

One of the best things landlords can do to make it easier to navigate this difficult issue is to have a plan for dealing with missed rent. Rather than simply reacting to situations as they arise, landlords should have a clear process for dealing with tenants that have missed rent payments. Here are some things to keep in mind as you formulate a plan that’s right for you and your tenants.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Communicating with tenants is a key first step towards dealing with concerns regarding rent payments. As a landlord, you want to know that tenants are having financial troubles before they begin missing rent payments. This is especially true in the current COVID-19 situation.. With that in mind, here are some tips to ensure good communication:

  • Be proactive about talking with tenants, reaching out regularly and encouraging them to share any concerns
  • When communicating with tenants, listen and be empathetic
  • At the same time, make it clear that you still have expenses and rent is still due

Always Consult and Comply with the Lease

When concerns over rent payments arise, it’s important for landlords to first turn to the lease to determine the next steps. A well-written lease will clearly document how to handle late payments, and it’s important to consult and comply with the lease at all times.

During difficult times, it can be tempting for landlords to take matters into their own hands. Yet, it’s important to follow the appropriate procedures, which comply with all laws and regulations. And it’s helpful to remember that it’s never appropriate to harass tenants, cut off utilities, lock tenants out of a unit, or move a tenant’s personal belongings in order to address missed rent payments.

An effective lease will alleviate the temptation for any inappropriate measures by outlining exactly what to do. It’s there to help guide you through issues like dealing with back rent, so make sure that you rely on it when dealing with missed rent payments. If you don’t already have a good lease, now is the time to start using one. ezLandlordForm’s lease-builder wizard and state assist makes it easy to create a comprehensive lease that complies with all state and federal laws.

Help Tenants Brainstorm Options for Rent Due

When tenants express that they are having a difficult time paying rent, try to help give them options for making payments. There are a variety of state and federal emergency rental assistance programs aimed at providing COVID-19 rent relief. Landlords should stay informed about changing government programs in order to present them as an option for tenants.

In addition, consider other creative solutions, for example,

  • Reaching out to family members
  • Paying rent on a credit card
  • Looking for opportunities for additional work

The bottom line is that before addressing issues like rent forgiveness or deferment, it’s always helpful to give tenants as many options as possible to stay on track with rent.

Workout a Repayment plan for Rent Due

If a tenant simply cannot make rent payments due to financial strain caused by COVID-19, you should sit down with them and work out a repayment plan. This generally includes a reduced rent for a specific period of time and a plan for how missed rent will be repaid.

The goal with a repayment plan should be coming up with a plan tenants can follow in order to keep up with rent as much as possible and to avoid having them fall too far behind. When drafting the plan, make sure that it’s realistic and in writing. ezLandlordForms offers a template to guide landlords through the process of drafting a repayment plan.


The last year has been an unprecedented one for landlords, with tenants falling behind on rent payments and a federal moratorium on evictions. While it’s a difficult time, having a good lease, a good plan for dealing with missed rental payments, and clear documentation of any repayment plans or lease addendums can make it a little easier. For more COVID-19 forms and resources, visit ezLandlordForms.

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William A Lederman
William A Lederman
3 years ago

You are living in a dream world where everything has an answer and follows a direct path. Well, I am dealing with the real world where people just take advantage of a bad situation!! My tenant could find a way to pay his rent or work out something with me! But he and his family are free loaders and are lazy and dishonest!! They lie and deceive me constanly. The minute the Covid hit they stopped paying the rent and that is just how the real world works!! They have no intention of paying the rent and will be evicted with owing me in excess of $12,000 . They will move on to the next sucker landlord who will evict them and so the game continues!!

Tom Chang
Tom Chang
3 years ago

Same here, tenant owes over $36k in arrears. Government helps tenant with stimulus checks, unemployment over 100%, yet the Tenant won’t pay all their rent even though they still have normal income.

But I get penalties for not paying Taxes, and still have to pay Insurance and upkeep.

I dont see our Government spending a second of their day going after China for the Virus they covered up and released to the world which put us in this situation to begin with.

Why is nobody demanding that China Pay for all the damages they did to the world?

Instead we are told that we have to absorb the Bill, and keep paying taxes, even though others are irresponsible.

3 years ago

How do we get thru the court system?

Rick Brown
Rick Brown
3 years ago

I sold my place and tenant has moved out owing me portions of short rent payments from last year. Trying to communicate and understanding but not getting very far collecting. Any ideas?

bud mann
bud mann
3 years ago

there needs to be some type of Govt. assistance for landlords, tenants that get social services or income stop paying, tenants receive their stimulus stop paying, skip out, We have filed court papers and its all up to us to track tenants, then file , re file, track their place of employment or their new location , refile with correct address, and then re file if they do not sign for mail, Its non stop hassle for landlords, $10,000 loss per unit on non payments of rents… About to auction them all off

Kenna Sims
Kenna Sims
3 years ago

foe 2 yrs a verbal agreement might as well been a dream
friend refuses communication, has house quertine by doctor excuses list goes on in drama. fully furnished with Never been Ipracticality ” move ed out..ALL ALL OF MY belongings and sentimental have been destroyed not DIME or A key
how can I get now 3 out of my home

Richard Rand
Richard Rand
3 years ago

problem is tenants have just taken advantage of this situation and our governor plays into their hands, i have tried to call ,, write , email my tenants with no reply for 16 months and $48,000 in back rents. I would love to know my rights as a landlord????????????

2 years ago

same problem here. Gov. gives people money for free to pay bills and rent and they go out and buy tv’s and grills and fish tanks and I get no rent.

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