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Real Estate Q&A: I’m Behind on My Rent. What Can I Do?

An understanding landlord is working with a renter, but she now fears she’ll never be able to catch up on missed rent payments.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: As we start to enter “Phase 1,” it looks like I will be able to get some hours at work soon. My landlord has been leaving me alone, knowing that I was put on hiatus and that evictions are temporarily paused. I am a couple of months behind on my rent and not sure how I can catch up. What can I do? – Karen

Answer: You are not alone – many people are facing this problem as our communities and country being the painful process of recovery.

It sounds like your landlord has been very pragmatic in accepting the reality of your situation and not giving you unnecessary grief. Hopefully, your landlord will continue to be reasonable.

Your first step should be to speak with her. Be realistic about your budget and try to take her needs as a landlord into account. She will need to pay the mortgage, property taxes and other expenses, and she cannot do that without collecting rent.

Since it will be difficult for you to gather enough rent money of first, last and security deposit needed to start a new lease, trying to work things out where you are is your best bet.

When having this conversation with your landlord, be open about your work situation and financial outlook. Try to make a plan where you pay the rent while making up the past-due rent in small, affordable, increments. If you are reasonable, there is no reason that your landlord will not agree.

The truth is that she will not get the missing rent payments back by evicting you, and no landlord wants to remove their tenant without a good reason. It is time-consuming and can be expensive and frustrating.

Give your landlord good reasons to work with you, and she most likely will.

Of course, this advice only works if you genuinely do not have the money to pay. If you do and are just trying to get one over, you can be sure that if your landlord finds out, she will be quick to evict you and chase you for the back rent.

In my time as a practicing attorney, I have occasionally seen people cry poverty and then drive off in their luxury car on their way to a weekend cruise. That never ends well when their landlord or lender finds out.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

© 2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.