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Responses to excuses

How do you respond to excuses for not paying rent? What about things you suspect are lies? For example, they used the "payroll problem" excuse twice in a month, amongst several other BS excuses. We set up an alternative payment plan while she was on maternity leave and then he got laid off and we heard lame excuses. How would you have reacted to it and what would you have said?   My husband is afraid of saying anything to them or telling them we need a specific amount by a specific date in fear they're going to trash the place if they fail and I'm sick of staying tight lipped because then they know they can get away with it and the problem continues.    Actual verbiage of what you would use would be helpful to us. Thanks!  Also, do you all ask for new employer information after they have already moved in?
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I try to be as nice as possible, listen carefully and be compassionate with my responses - BUT - when it's my turn to talk I say "Unfortunately, I can't personally afford for you to not pay your rent.  If you can't afford the rent, then we need to work together to get you into a place you can afford."   Almost all tenants will then say that they can afford to rent, but for whatever reasons state they just can't pay it now.  I then say "I understand your situation, and am willing to work with you, but I want to make it very, very clear that we both have to keep our word.  Once you commit to this payment schedule, I'll expect you keep it or I'll be forced to go another route."  I'm not really forced to do anything, but it's a nice way of saying I'll evict them.  This is my way of playing good-cop, bad cop.  I'm very nice, but I'm also very firm.  One more piece of advice... most people will not catch up on the rent once they get past due.  Move the paper-work along once they all behind.  I usually tell my tenants that this is a 'formality' and I'll cancel it if they pay keep their agreement. They get the hint.  The fear of trashing a place is always a possibility.  That's why I'm always very pleasant and never get mad or angry.  I let the 'good cop' take care of this.  Whenever I threaten, it's always in a veiled,  mild way.  The eviction paperwork is always enough of a theat, I don't need to say much more.    Good luck!
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