Include Monthly Rent Breakdown in All Rent Demand Notices
Before you can sue to evict a tenant for not paying the rent, you must send the tenant a legal notice known as a “rent demand.” In it, you ask the tenant to pay the rent owed and give him a chance to pay before starting a nonpayment proceeding. Although this seems simple enough, improperly prepared rent demands can jeopardize your nonpayment cases.
Example: In a recent case, a court dismissed an owner’s attempt to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent due to a defective rent demand. The rent demand indicated a lump sum of $3,199 was due without even including a monthly rent breakdown. The tenant was expected to review a rent ledger attached to the rent demand. And the rent ledger referred to non-rent items described as amounts due under a repayment agreement. The rent demand was too indefinite, and the judge dismissed the case [AK Houses TP4 LLC v. Thurman, May 2023].
What to include: In the rent demand, give a detailed, month-by-month breakdown of the rent the tenant owes, along with a separate breakdown of any additional charges you’re entitled to collect. Additional rent can include water charges or a portion of the utilities, for example, as long as these charges are included in the rental agreement. Additional rent can’t include money you’re owed by the tenant that’s not related to the rent. Additional rent can’t include late charges, court filing fees, or attorney’s fees, even if the lease says these are part of the rent.
Also, it’s important to note that the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (HSTPA) requires an owner to notify the tenant that rent wasn’t received with a delinquent notice. Tenants must be notified by certified mail within five days that rent wasn’t received on the due date. This notice precedes a rent demand and, without this notice, a tenant may raise as an affirmative defense to a nonpayment proceeding the failure to provide this notice [Real Property Law §235-e].