If you have money troubles and can't pay your rent on time, contact your landlord in writing as soon as possible. This is not only courteous, it shows that you take the matter seriously. Whether your economic hardship is due to a temporary cash crunch or a long-term issue, your letter should focus on explaining the situation and how you plan to resolve it.
Put your name and address at the top of the letter, along with the date. This is the proper form for business communication and lets your landlord know who you are -- particularly important if your landlord owns multiple properties or you don't know him well.
If you are facing temporary economic hardship, reinforce that you'll catch up on your rent soon. Briefly explain the circumstance that has created the hardship and how you are resolving it.
Here are some examples:
"A family member recently died, and we had unexpected travel expenses. We'll be back on our normal budget by the end of the month."
"My hours were reduced at work. My wife has taken a part-time job and is expecting her first paycheck, which will cover the rent, in two weeks."
Follow your explanation by telling your landlord when you'll have the money. Be realistic when choosing a pay-by date. If you don't have the money when you say you will, you'll damage your credibility.
If your situation is going to last more than one rent cycle, explain your situation and ask for an in-person meeting with your landlord to discuss options. Suggest ways of managing the situation, such as reducing your rent, establishing a payment plan, terminating your lease or subletting to another tenant while you move into cheaper housing.
If you can pay something on your rent right now, include a check or money order with the letter. Indicate in the letter that you are making a small payment now and will pay the rest at a later date. However, your landlord may refuse the partial payment. In some states, such as Florida, accepting partial rent payments prevent the landlord from beginning eviction proceedings until the next rent cycle. Since evictions can take months to complete, many landlords don't want to prolong the process by accepting a payment and delaying eviction proceedings.
Some states allow tenants to waive the eviction restriction. Offering to waive the restriction helps you negotiate a payment plan while alleviating your landlord's concerns.
Invite Further Contact
In the closing paragraph, tell your landlord you are happy to discuss this matter further. Provide your phone number and let your landlord know the best time to contact you. Reassure your landlord that this is a temporary situation and that you'll make your rent payments on time in the future.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.