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“How Are Small-Time Landlords Handling Partial Rent Payments?”

Photo by angela n.

“Dear PoPville,

I am a small-time landlord (just one condo), and my tenant has been making late or partial payments since the pandemic started. I had some email and phone conversations with them early on, and assured them that I could not try to evict them if their April rent payment was late while they waited for various assistance programs, including expanded unemployment benefits (part of their income is from freelancing, which I knew at the outset), were implemented.

At the beginning of May, the tenant paid all of the April rent and half of the May rent.

They noted in their electronic payment that the May payment was only half of the rent due. I appreciated their honesty in all of this. As of today (6/10), they paid the other half of the May rent, and put a notation on it that it was the second half of the May rent (exact note was “May rent 2/2, June rent 1/2 within 5 days).

So, really, my question is, given these notations, should I refuse the payment notated as the second half of May to avoid any legal complications? The tenant and I both know I can’t evict or charge late fees during the public health emergency, and with today’s payment, they’re only 5 days late for June. I AM inclined to accept it and reach out to see if they’re just waiting for processing on expanded unemployment benefits. I’m not totally cold-hearted, and if they’re still in limbo for benefits coming through, it won’t kill me to wait. But I just don’t want to be in a position where they can claim that I de facto reduced their rent by accepting the partial payments, even though they have notated themself that they are catching back up.”

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