What Happens If I Am Late On My Rent?


What does a landlord have to do if I have not paid my rent?

If your landlord wants you to leave because you owe rent, the landlord must give you a 5-day written notice. This is sometimes called a "pay or quit" notice.

What does the notice have to state?
The notice must state that you have 5 days to either pay the rent or leave.
What happens if I pay the rent in the 5 days?

If you pay all of the money that you owe within the 5 days, you do not have to leave. Be sure to get a receipt showing how much rent you paid and the date you paid it. If the landlord still files a court case, you should go to court and show the judge your receipt. It is important to go to court to be sure the judge knows you paid the rent and to be sure the case is dismissed.

What happens if I do not pay the rent after I get the notice?

If you do not pay within the 5 days, the landlord can file a court case to make you leave. If the landlord does this, you will get a paper from the court (called an unlawful detainer) that gives the date of your hearing.

If I get the court paper, how can I stop the court case?

You can stop the court case by paying all the rent you owe, any late fees, court costs, and attorney's fees (if your lease says you may owe attorney's fees if the landlord takes you to court for unpaid rent). You must pay everything that you owe at or before the first court hearing. However, you can only stop the court case once every 12 months by paying everything you owe before the first hearing.

What if I can only pay part of what I owe?

If you pay less than what you owe, the landlord can keep your money and the judge can still order you to leave.

What do I do if I pay all that is owed?
If you pay all the money you owe, take your receipts to court and show them to the judge. Ask the judge to dismiss your case.
If I can't pay, do I need to go to court?
You should go to court even if you do not have the money. It may result in getting some additional time to move.
What if I think the amount of money the landlord says I owe is wrong?
If you think that the amount of money the landlord says you owe is wrong, or if you have other questions, call a legal aid office or a private attorney. Do this before any court dates. You should also go to court on the court date and tell the judge why you think the amount is wrong. Be sure to take your receipts and other proof of your story.
What if I agree I owe the money, but I can’t pay it?
Even if you agree you owe the money, you should still go to court because it might give you more time to move before you are evicted. After July 1, 2005, a landlord can get a judgment for possession, evict the tenant, and also get another court date to get judgment for final rent (including rent for the period after you move out and before the landlord re-rents the unit) and damages. This could be more than you were originally sued for. If you are in court, you will know about the new court date and can go to defend your case. If the judge sets a new court date, you should be sure to go in case the landlord says you owe more rent or damages than you think you owe.
If I have to move out, should I give my landlord my new address?
Yes. If the landlord owes you any security deposit, he will need to know where to send it (See "What are my rights concerning my security deposit?"). Also, if the landlord asks the court for a continuance (another court date) to get judgment for final rent and damages, he will be required to send you notice of the court date and of the amounts he is suing you for at least 15 days before the court date. To be sure you get that notice, you should leave your new address with the landlord. Even if you are afraid the landlord might sue you again, it is better for him to have your address so that you are served notice of the court date and can be in court and present a defense.
Last Review and Update: May 28, 2010
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