What Is the Meaning of a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit?

by Ellie Williams ; Updated July 27, 2017
A three-day notice is the first step in evicting a nonpaying tenant.

A three-day notice to pay rent or quit is a serious measure taken by a landlord to force a tenant to pay past due rent. The landlord must hand-deliver the notice to the property and must specify in the document how much is owed and how the tenant can pay. State laws regarding a three-day notice vary. In some, a tenant may be given three business days, while in others, she may only be given three calendar days. The notice does not apply in all circumstances, such as when the tenant lives in property covered by local rent control ordinances.

First Step in the Eviction Process

A notice to pay rent or quit is a collection method used by landlords when a tenant is behind on rent payments. It is usually the first step in taking action against a delinquent tenant and provides the tenant an opportunity to settle the debt before legal action is pursued. In many states, this notice is required before a landlord can evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent.

Tenant Must Pay in Full

The landlord must state the exact amount the tenant owes, but cannot go back more than a year even if the tenant owes more than a year’s worth of rent payments. The landlord also cannot include other amounts, such as late fees, penalties, utilities, damages or interest. Vacating the property does not relieve the tenant of his debt to the landlord. Even if the tenant leaves, he must still pay the rent money owed to the landlord.

Landlord Must Accept Payment

If a tenant pays the past due amount within the three-day limit, the landlord must accept the payment and cease any eviction threats or proceedings. However, the landlord is not obligated to give the tenant additional time to comply and is allowed to file an eviction lawsuit the day immediately after the three-day notice expires. The landlord can also require the tenant to pay in cash instead of check. If the landlord allows payment by check and the tenant’s check bounces, it is considered the same as if the tenant had not paid.

Not a Court Document

Unlike a summons to appear in court, a three-day notice to pay rent or quit is not a legal document issued by the court system. It is a notice a landlord gives a tenant as notification that the tenant is delinquent and the landlord plans to collect the money owed. The landlord must put the notice in writing and must sign it, but the notice is not reviewed or approved by any legal entity. If the landlord makes any mistakes in the notice, he could automatically lose the case if it goes to court.

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