When The Rents Are Late

It is difficult to imagine the anguish of a man who has failed for months to pay his rent despite repeated demands when he truly wished to pay if he had the money. There are numerous circumstances that cause delay in meeting rent obligations. Sometimes in a few months into the tenancy year it is possible to recover this upset and quickly redeem. At this time for others, the situation just spirals into more debt and a bigger mess until they are either thrown out or when involved with landlords with a good temperament end up owing two, three, four years rent arrears.

This guide may not be able to proffer solutions to life’s problems (whether real or perceived) that cause tenants to become recalcitrant and unable to meet up payments but can advise that situations be managed properly; some sort of damage control, before it goes too far to be recalled.

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Operators of the property industry who are trained professionals frequently face another challenge. Rent lateness and default are very common occurrences and sadly there are many tenants who are not in as much financial trouble or arm strung and yet refuse to pay their rents. It beats one’s imagination but this group of tenants just lack integrity and show this flaw in their character.

The way to identify such people is that they run around in circles and never have a story that leaves you completely convinced. Something keeps gnawing at you that they are being insincere; because you do not live with them and cannot see their bank account, you give room or the benefit of doubt for a few months before taking an action to try regaining possession.
Sadly there is no science for differentiating the first group with genuine problems from this second unscrupulous set of rent defaulters. The only common indicator to the experienced management surveyor is their response to you when you chase after them to recover rent. The former is usually sombre and better comported while the latter will make several untrue promises to pay that you can easily see as diversionary. To avoid being mixed up and disbelieved, it is good for a tenant to build up some honour and integrity over time with the handlers of the property (whether landlord or agent). Yet, every once in a while it is possible to get it all mixed up and misunderstood. The good then becomes the bad and the ugly.

The frequent reality is that when rents are slightly late, the landlord or his hefty men pay a visit to demand for either payment, or that defaulting tenants vacate the premises. Sometimes the wrong persons may get hurt and thrown out because the situation is not being well handled. By who?

Well, do not blame the man who expects that his rent will come the day it is due and who unfortunately has been taken for a ride in the past when he tried to be kind. Now he is man who has hardened his heart to try and regain his property without losing another year! The onus is on you (the tenant) to communicate the situation effectively to the landlord or agent until he can see hope or the light at the end o the tunnel. The way to achieve this is to interpret which of the circumstances below led to the mess and offer the possible solutions.

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Delays in Rent Payment

Business crisis: Sometimes rents are late because business suddenly takes a plunge for the worse. Contractors who depend on government patronage often fall into this bracket and one moment/year they are buoyant and the next they are not. The same is common in the supply trade where a local purchase order (LPO) has not received payment where vehicles, computers or even agricultural product have been supplied.

Suggested solutions: it may take sometimes to determine whether you will recover what you are owed so it is likely you will be in arrears of more than six months. Openly explain the situation to the other party where possible, showing company documents and keep your promise to pay soonest even if all you have received is a part payment of what you are owed.
Your abode should be priority. If after one year, the situation is unchanged and you are still owed, you may review the situation by down sizing to a smaller apartment or give it up to share with another friendly family temporarily.

Late salaries/wages: sometimes you are owed salary arrears, or your wages have just not been paid. Usually such developments are in the news – whether it is Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) or Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) or Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) or Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) – and we can all empathize.
Who is not owed salaries these days?

Suggested solution: Talk about it. Explain and be sincere enough to pay when you receive payment. After one year, apply the solution above or else it may be applied for you (by the landlord or his agents).

Retrenchment: Sometimes rents are late because the tenant lost his job. Inevitably, this situation will evoke sympathy but the reality is that a tenant will only meet his rent obligations if he earns an income. At least in the short run turn to friends and family. It may be tough but you will raise the rent. Many people have been known to bounce back from such adversity but while still hoping, the reality is, get help! This is the most difficult part of this guide because when situations in life arise especially in this part of the world where majority of the people are low income earners and poverty is widespread, solutions are far in between.

Difficulty with employers / companies: sometimes a smaller category of people who occupy premises paid for by their employers fall into arrears because the company inadvertently has caused the delay. A variation of this is when you depend on the payment of your rent allowances to meet rent obligation. It is better to arrange your tenancy to coincide with the payment of this allowance or to be paid one or two months later so you can always meet up. If the company raises the payment and the delay is only bureaucratic the requisition for payment can go a little earlier every year so the process does not become a rush.

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Escalating living costs: Sometimes rents are late because a greater percentage of tenants are busy grappling with compelling expenses and cost of living in a country where fuel costs, food costs, transportation costs, school fees, car maintenance, all shoot up at the same time.
People at these times tow the path of least resistance. It is easier to plead over delay in rent payment than to go to the market without money and so rent is pushed forward.
These days of keeping children out of the classroom if school fees are not paid forces many parents to meet up first before rents! Too many tenants do not seem to mind owing for years if possible. Many only make a feeble attempt to repay after much pressure is put on them and this attitude which is obviously widespread and observable whips up efforts by the property owners to counter this laxity. It is much better to reschedule rent payment.

Rescheduling Your Rent Payment
Rescheduling should be seen as useful, not as a matter of convenience. It is better to reschedule instead of not paying rents at all. The need for rescheduling is indicated when you are getting some money from time to time even though it is not the bulk sum you usually require to pay your annual rent. These sums are somehow lost in daily expenses which you can hardly explain. It is better to come to an understanding on a workable new pattern of rent payment with owners of your residence.
A used-to-be tough landlord recently passed this comment after many years of disappointing performance by his tenants who always fell into rent arrears. “Ask them to come to a meeting so we can make fresh arrangement on how they can pay their rent quarterly if yearly is not working.” “Problem shared is problem solved”. It was the most placatory position that particular landlord had made in a while and it was very gladdening. In a way he acted as the spokesman for many other property owners who are just waiting for the right approach! “Problem shared is problem solved”! Rescheduling is not deferment of rent payment but re-arrangement of the timing, mode and pattern of payment.

Make part payment of rents. To avoid a total default, if you previously paid rent annually, you can enter a new arrangement to bring your rent quarterly (every 3 months) or half yearly (every 6 months) to the landlord or his appointed agents. If initially your approach is rejected, press gently but firmly for it, making your financial circumstances clear to the parties. It will sometimes work but will upset a landlord who budgets the use of his rents in bulk sums the way it was paid in the past. Convince them even if it is accepted as a temporary solution.

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Work on winning the agent’s confidence. This may require several visits to their office and showing why you need to break your rents into instalmental payments. Subsequently when you both have a good rapport and understanding, pay whatever sums you have into the agent’s office and ensure you collect a receipt each time. The best way to use this is to start early in the new tenancy year instead of making the effort in the last six months and allowing this year’s balance to enter another tenancy year.

Determine to put a stop to the present tenancy if the house is becoming too costly to afford. Calculate the rent pro-rata and look for smaller accommodation to quickly move into, either within the same premises or elsewhere. Pay up the calculated rent up to date or if this is not possible promise to pay it later and leave your forwarding address. Unfortunately, most people run away with such rent balances and it is not honourable.

Lastly, be consistent with the story of your condition and experiences. There is every likelihood that if you are seen as genuinely having difficulties some more consideration will be given to you to make it possible for the tenancy to survive and get back to normal when things change for better. This is easier if you are known to have done well in past. No doubt in not a few cases the landlord or agents could still be unbending and refuse to cooperate.

Every tenant must brace himself for a possible lack of cooperation as soon as it is observed that you cannot meet your rent payment as previously agreed. Whenever a tenant faces such hostility, it is best to be patient and matured, showing willingness to pay as soon as possible while keeping the knowledge that you cannot be evicted anyhow without due process.

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