Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, everyone dreads the 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. No one wants to be evicted and no landlord wants to make that difficult decision or go through the process of evicting someone.
For landlords, this is a big reason why they hire a property management company in the first place. They dread this process and many have a hard time following through when it comes time to serve this notice and possibly file an unlawful detainer.
For tenants, receiving this notice can be scary, frustrating and confusing. Maybe you didn't realize that your check bounced or your account had insufficient funds so the automatic rent payment didn't go through. Or maybe you had a financial emergency and you just don't have the money for rent this month.
Landlords are not required to serve tenants with this notice as soon as they are late on rent and most won't. If there's a good relationship between landlord and tenant, it's much more likely that the landlord will call the tenant to figure out what's going on and when the rent will be paid. If there have been multiple late payments or there isn't a good reason for the rent being late, tenants can likely expect one of these notices from their landlord. Legally, this notice can be served the day after rent is late or if the lease has a grace period, the day after that has passed.
What is a 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit?
A 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit is simply a form used to notify a tenant that they are in violation of their lease for not paying rent and that they have 3 days to pay up or move out. It is the first legal step required before a landlord can move forward with an eviction by filing an unlawful retainer.
A lease is a legally binding contract and this notice is a means of enforcing that contract.
What Needs to be Included on a 3 Day Notice
If a landlord fills out one of these notices incorrectly or leaves out information, the notice will not be recognized by the court and the tenant will be able to maintain legal possession of the property, even if they owe unpaid rent, until the landlord serves the 3 day correctly.
A 3 Day Pay Rent or Quit Notice must be in writing and must contain the following information:
- Full name of the tenant(s).
- Address of the rental unit.
- Date the notice was served to the tenant(s).
- Total amount of rent owed (cannot go back more than 1 year even if more than 1 year's worth of rent is owed).
- Dates for which the overdue rent is for.
- A statement that the tenant(s) owes rent and that it must be paid within 3 days or else an unlawful detainer will be filed with the court.
- The name, phone number and address of the person or company that can receive the rent as well as that days and hours that person or company is available to receive rent.
- A certificate or statement of how the notice was served to the tenant(s).
The landlord cannot require the tenant to pay rent in cash and cannot demand other unpaid amounts such as late fees, interest, utilities, damage or anything else that is not rent money.
If the tenant pays within those 3 days (the first day being the day after the notice is served), then the tenancy continues as normal. Late fees can be charged in accordance with the lease, but even if those are not paid, eviction cannot be pursued after rent has been paid within those 3 days. If the landlord attempts to continue with the eviction by filing an unlawful detainer, the tenant will be able to easily defend against with proof of paying rent in the 3 day period after the notice was received.
If the tenant offers to pay at some point past the 3 days, the landlord has the option to allow that or they can proceed with an eviction once the 3 days have passed.
How a 3 Day Notice Can Be Served
Just as important as the content of a 3 day notice is how that notice is served to the tenant.
The landlord can serve the tenant in any of the following ways:
- Hand deliver the notice to the tenant(s) at the rental or their place of work.
- If the tenant(s) cannot be easily found, the landlord can give the notice to someone over the age of 18 at the rental or the tenant's place of work. If this is done, the landlord must also mail the notice.
- If the tenant(s) cannot be easily found and there is no one over 18 to hand deliver the notice to, the landlord can post the notice in a conspicuous place on the rental unit. If this is done, the landlord must also mail the notice.
Failing to serve the tenant in one of these ways can result in the court not recognizing the 3 day notice as valid.
What Happens Next?
There are several different things that can happen after the 3 day notice has been successfully delivered, depending on how the tenant responds.
The easiest and simplest way to resolve a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit is simply pay the rent. The eviction process ends here and the tenancy continues as normal.
This doesn't always happen and if the tenant contacts the landlord and arranges a day to pay the rent after the 3 days have passed, the landlord can choose not to continue with the eviction. However, if the landlord insists rent must be paid within those 3 days and the tenant does not, the next step is to file an unlawful detainer.
Filing an Unlawful Detainer
Filing an unlawful detainer correctly is a lengthy process and needs to be done with extreme care as any mistake will result in the case being thrown out by the court. Once an unlawful detainer is filed, the landlord can no longer accept rent payments from the tenant.
There following 3 forms need to be filled out by the landlord:
This is the point where the landlord needs to seek legal advice in filling out these forms. If these forms are filled out incorrectly or missing information, the tenant will have an easy defense against the eviction on that basis.
After the forms are filled out, they need to be filed with the court and served to the tenant. The method in which these forms must be served is extremely important and advice should be received from a lawyer for this step as well.
After serving, the tenant is given an opportunity to respond. If they do respond, the landlord can ask for a trial and take the matter before a judge who will ultimately decide who should legally be in possession of the property.
Once decided, assuming possession is granted back to the landlord, a "lock out date" is scheduled with the county sheriff. The sheriff will post a notice to vacate 5 days prior to the lock out date. After those 5 days have passed, the landlord will meet the sheriff at the property and the sheriff will enter and remove any remaining occupants and return possession back to the landlord.
The Eviction Aftermath
Evictions can be a nightmare and the thought of dealing with an eviction will keep many investors from ever purchasing investment property. They cost hundreds of dollars in legal fees, not to mention time and money lost by not receiving rental income during an eviction.
After regaining possession, the landlord may have to legally handle abandoned property left in the rental home by the tenant. This is another 15 day process that has several legal requirements, all of which are easy to mess up and can result in a lawsuit from the tenant. That's right, even if the tenant owes you thousands in back rent and is evicted from the home but leaves their stuff there, they can sue you for mishandling their stuff.
Many times after an eviction, the home has been trashed and will cost thousands in rehabilitation costs. This can take weeks and means more time the house is off the market and not generating rental income.
For tenants, an eviction is like a scarlet letter. It stays on your record for 7 years and many landlords and property management companies can and will refuse to rent to you if you have one on your record. If you don't pay the rent and other charges you owe, your wages can be garnished or they can go to collections. Job applications and loan applications may also ask if you have ever been evicted.
Many tenants leave after an eviction feeling triumphant and like they really "stuck it to the landlord" by staying in the property for weeks without paying rent. In reality, they will have an extremely difficult time finding a new place to live with an eviction. History of nonpayment of rent is one of the legal reasons given by Fair Housing for landlords to reject potential tenants.
If you are a tenant that has just received a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit, don't panic. Check out this article for our recommended tips on what to do next.
If you are a landlord staring down the long road of the eviction process and just don't want to handle it, contact us today. Unfortunately, we've done this before and we know what we're doing. A good property management company can do most of the above steps for you and will be able to screen tenants more thoroughly than you can on your own to prevent this from ever happening in the first place.
For a comprehensive guide to managing rental property, check out this resource.