Rent: What to Do and Not to Do If You Can’t Pay on Time

For many people and families, making rental payments on schedule can become difficult when financial problems arise. Failure to pay rent on time, whether due to unanticipated medical expenses, job loss, or other unforeseen circumstances can cause stress and worry. Tenants and landlords in Arizona have state-mandated rights and duties. Hence, understanding these laws and knowing what to do might help relieve some of the pressure during hard times. In this guide, we’ll go over what to do and what not to do if you’re unable to pay your rent on time in Arizona.

What to Do:

Communicate with Your Landlord

The first and most important step is to communicate openly and honestly with your landlord about your financial situation. Contact your landlord as soon as you realize you won’t be able to pay on time. Transparency is key, and they may be willing to make other arrangements. Many landlords are willing to work with tenants facing temporary financial difficulties rather than risk losing a reliable tenant.

Explain Your Situation

Arizona law doesn’t explicitly require tenants to explain their situation when they can’t pay rent. However,  being honest and transparent can foster goodwill and potentially lead to a more favorable resolution. For example, if you’ve experienced a temporary job loss due to a downturn in the economy, letting your landlord know might prompt them to consider a payment plan.

Know Your Rights

Familiarize yourself with Arizona’s landlord-tenant laws to understand your rights and protections. In Arizona, tenants have certain rights, including the right to a habitable dwelling, protection against landlord retaliation, and the right to withhold rent in certain circumstances.

Offer a Partial Rent Payment

If you can’t pay the full amount, offer to pay what you can. This shows your willingness to meet your obligations. It can also help maintain a positive relationship with your landlord. Moreover, under Arizona law (A.R.S. § 33-1368), if a tenant fails to pay rent when due, the landlord must provide a written notice allowing five days for payment before they can initiate eviction proceedings. Hence, offering a partial payment along with communication might persuade your landlord to refrain from starting eviction proceedings.

Negotiate a Rent Payment Plan

Work with your landlord to come up with a payment plan that allows you to pay off what you owe in installments over time. Make sure the plan is realistic and that you can stick to it. To note, Arizona law doesn’t specifically address late rental payment plans. Most landlords are generally open to negotiating terms with tenants to avoid eviction. However, any agreement should be put in writing to ensure clarity and avoid misunderstandings.

Seek Financial Assistance

Explore available resources for financial assistance, such as local charities, government programs, or rental assistance programs. In Arizona, some organizations and agencies provide aid to individuals and families struggling to pay rent. For example, The Arizona Department of Housing and Community Action Agencies in Arizona offer rental assistance services. Although not mentioned in statutes, these organizations are particularly helpful in aiding tenants who are having financial problems.


What Not to Do:

Ignore the Situation

Avoiding communication with your landlord or ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Failing to discuss your financial situation will only complicate the problem. Worse, it may lead to legal consequences, including eviction. Under the Arizona law, if a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord can issue a five-day notice to pay or vacate. Therefore, you must address the issue head-on and communicate with your landlord as soon as possible.

Skip Rent Payments Without Notice

Simply failing to pay rent without providing any notice or explanation to your landlord is not advisable. Doing so may breach your lease agreement and give your landlord grounds for eviction.

Make Partial Rent Payments Without Agreement

Making partial rental payments may seem like a temporary solution. However, doing so without an agreement from your landlord could still result in eviction proceedings. In line with this, the law addresses the landlord’s acceptance of partial payments while filing for eviction. Thus, always seek approval from your landlord before deviating from the terms of your lease agreement.

Make Promises You Can’t Keep

Avoid making promises you can’t fulfill, such as promising to pay by a certain date if you’re not sure you’ll be able to. It’s better to be honest and realistic about your situation.

Wait Until the Last Minute

The sooner you reach out to your landlord, the better. Waiting until the rent is already late can make the situation more stressful for both parties and may limit your options for resolving the issue.

Blame Others

While it’s okay to explain the circumstances that led to your inability to pay, avoid placing blame on others, such as your employer or family members. Taking responsibility for your situation will help you maintain a positive relationship with your landlord.

Violate Your Lease Agreement

Be sure to familiarize yourself with the terms of your lease agreement. This will help you avoid any actions that could result in further consequences, such as subletting without permission or causing damage to the property.


Paying rent on time might be difficult, but you should approach the problem with transparency, communication, and an understanding of your rights. You can do this by communicating with your landlord, requesting help when necessary, and understanding Arizona’s landlord-tenant laws. Remember, seeking help and taking proactive steps can often lead to better outcomes for both tenants and landlords.