Strategy of postponement

It is not unusual for a landlord and a tenant to strike a deal after an eviction action has been filed wherein the tenant starts making payments to get caught up on rent. In that case, the landlord will often postpone the eviction hearing while the tenant is making payments. The landlord cannot do this indefinitely. In essence, continuing to postpone the eviction hearing is like holding the threat of an eviction over the tenant’s head. This is a useful motivational tool but not something that can be threatened indefinitely.

The eviction is only effective (in a nonpayment of rent case) for the rent that is claimed due and owing in the eviction complaint. If a landlord files an eviction because the tenant failed to pay March’s rent and late fees then April and May’s rent has no relevance to the eviction matter. If a landlord postpones the eviction hearing on several occasions and the tenant is making payments, once the tenant pays March’s rent and late fees then the landlord no longer has any basis for the eviction. This is true even if the tenant does not pay April’s rent.

The landlord must apply any payments made by the tenant to March’s rent if March’s rent is the basis for the eviction. The landlord cannot apply payments to April or May’s rent first and claim that March is still unpaid.

Instead of continually postponing an eviction hearing, the landlord should enter into a payment plan with the tenant. If the tenant keeps the payment plan then the landlord dismisses the eviction action. If the tenant fails to honor the plan then the landlord proceeds through with the eviction.