Dear Mary: In one of your columns that I read years ago, you recommended paying your rent (or mortgage) first, because landlords are quick to evict. I just wanted to confirm this point, but also say that I wish I would have taken that advice to heart.
I've lived in the same house for over three years. I was evicted for being 18 days late, even though this was the first time I was ever late. I sent a certified letter to the landlord ahead of time explaining why I would be late.
Since he didn't respond, I assumed my explanation for why I would be paying late was acceptable. Instead, he sent me a summons. It ended up costing me $900 in attorney fees and court costs, and it is still costing me because I have my things in storage. Because I have an eviction on my record, I cannot find anyone who will take me as a renter. I am basically homeless.
I have since learned that the landlord wanted possession of the house and used my first slip-up to gain it. I have paid a heavy price to learn about the laws that exist in Missouri, and similarly in all states:
1. You are considered late after the first day.
2. You are considered a late payer even if you pay during the grace period.
3. All that the grace period means is that you won't be charged a late charge until after the fifth day, or when the grace period runs out.
4. The landlord can report you to the credit bureaus as a late payer for up to seven years even if you have paid on time every other month over a long period of time.
5. Unless you have a lease, a landlord can serve you a 30-day notice to vacate, followed by eviction if you do not comply, just to gain possession of the property, even if you were never late.
I'm scared to death because I can't find a place to live. Morally and ethically I believe what the landlord did was wrong, but legally landlords can do this.
I hope you can use this letter to bring a real-life scenario to your readers. -- J.K., MO
Dear J.K.: My heart is aching as I read your letter, trying to imagine how painful this lesson has been for you. The good thing is that I am certain you will never have to learn it again. I want to encourage you to keep looking and keep applying. You will find a place to live eventually, if you keep at it and do not give up.
Be open and upfront with potential landlords. If you tell them about the eviction before they find this out by reading your credit report, you will have an opportunity to explain what happened together with the difficult lessons you have learned.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I know there are readers right now who are learning from your mistake, and they are grateful. Good luck, and let us know when you get settled.
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