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Keeping Tenants and Getting Paid

Does this sound familiar? You have a tenant who checked out well in the application process,but now has not paid rent for two months. He says that he was laid off from his job, but is starting a new one and that his mother has agreed to help him catch up. You don’t necessarily want to evict him, but this obviously can’t continue. However, there is a chance that you can give this tenant an opportunity to redeem himself, yet still protect your interests.

The first step is to give the tenant a 72-hour rent nonpayment notice. If the tenant pays the rent, then life goes on and the tenancy continues. If not, you should file an eviction case at your county courthouse. The court clerk will have several “check the box” forms that you can use to file an eviction – but be sure to bring along several copies of the 72-hour notice that you will need to attach to the eviction complaint. After you file the paperwork and pay the filing fee, you can have the sheriff serve the eviction summons and complaint.

The court will set a “1st appearance hearing” when you file the eviction. Both sides need to show up at this hearing. If the tenant doesn’t appear, then you win automatically and get a judgment entitling you to an eviction by the sheriff. If the tenant does show up, you will get a chance to negotiate a “stay and pay” agreement that the court will sign as an enforceable court order.

Under Oregon law, court payment agreements can and should include:

  1. All past-due rent

  2. late fees

  3. unpaid utilities

  4. court costs

  5. attorney fees (if any)

  6. any other unpaid charges

The payment agreement can extend for up to six months, with payments made at monthly intervals or any other schedule that both sides agree on. The agreement can also include the next three regular monthly rent payments – sort of a “probationary period” to make sure the tenant gets back on track. If the tenant complies with the payment terms, the tenancy continues. If the tenant misses any payment, then you will file a “declaration of noncompliance” with the court and finish the eviction process. These “stay and pay” agreements are very useful for landlords. They give you an opportunity to keep good tenants that may have temporarily fallen on hard times, but also keep open your eviction options.

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