Correctly sending 5 and 7 day letters is one of the easier things to do as a landlord, but it is also one of the easier things to do incorrectly. Worse still, incorrectly sending a 5 or 7 day letter can mean the difference between swiftly evicting a problem tenant, or having the process drag on for many months. A “5 day notice to pay rent or quit”, or 5 day letter for short, is a simple letter that warns a tenant that if they do not pay rent then an eviction process will be brought against them so that the landlord can legally take the property back and be repaid for any damages, back due rent, and utilities. Every eviction process and its outcome look different every time, but they all start the exact same way; a 5 day letter.
The first step to correctly sending a 5 day letter is to print the letter and fill it out. If you have never sent a 5 day letter and don’t know what it looks, you can take a look at our 5 day letter to start or you can easily google “5 day letter template” and find a good template to start with. The first part of your 5 day letter should be a short paragraph that explains the tenant is late to pay rent, they have 5 days to pay the past due rent and all associated late fees, and if they do not pay within those 5 days then a formal eviction process will be filed against them. The last part of your letter should be a breakdown of exactly how much money they owe you, and why they owe it to you. Make sure you put the tenants name in the greeting of the letter and sign you name at the bottom and you have a working 5 day letter.
There are 4 things most landlords get wrong with the 5 day letter. If you do any of these three wrong the court could find sufficient reason to dismiss your case so pay attention and make sure you are not doing any of these four things yourself. Also, please keep in mind this information is specific to the State of Delaware where we operate. Most states’ Landlord Tenant Codes dictate sending a 5 day letter in the exact same way (or close to it), but I encourage you to research your own states just to be absolutely certain (or find a Property Manager in your state that would be willing to tell you).
1.) Incorrect Items in the cost breakdown of the letter
The only three things that can legally be included in your 5 day letter are 1.) past due rent 2.) late fees associated to past due rent 3.) past due utility bills. Nothing else, for any reason at all, can be added to the total past due amount in your 5 day letter. No tenant insurance, no postage fees, no pet fees, absolutely nothing other than the three items listed above can be in the 5 day letter. Including anything else in the letter could force you to restart the eviction process and cost you 2 – 3 months of your time and thousands of dollars.
2.) The letter is mailed incorrectly
Every 5 day letter needed to be sent with a certificate of mailing. This certificate mailing ensures that the envelope was delivered to the address and the day that it was delivered to the address. Be sure to keep the receipt and the receipt of delivery in case they are needed in court. If you do not mail the letter correctly then the court could find that the tenant was not given proper notice or there is reason to believe they were not notified at all. In Either case, your case will be dismissed and you will have to start the eviction process over again, this time sending the letters correctly.
3.) Not individually mailing every responsible party to the lease
Every tenant has a right to know that a summary possession case is being brought against them. This means that if there are 3 tenants over the age of 18 named on the lease, then all 3 need to be mailed a letter individually. Three separate letters with three separate names on the mailing address need to be mailed with certificate of mailing. If you do not do this, one of the responsible tenants could claim they were not properly notified and your case could get dismissed; forcing you to restart the eviction process over again.
4.) Not waiting the correct amount before filing for eviction
According to the delaware landlord tenant code you must wait 5 court days before officially filing for an eviction. Court days are not normal calendar days, and they are computed as follows. A Court day is a week day that is also not a holiday. This means if you mail a 5 day letter on monday, then you must wait until the following monday to file for the eviction. To be safe I would wait 5 full days before filing and file the next day on a tuesday, this way you can show the court you waited 5 complete court days between mailing the 5 day letter and filing for eviction
These are the four most common mistakes I see landlords making when sending 5 day letters. Seven day letters must be sent in the exact same way with two differences: 1.) This time you can include any past due charges you may have against the tenant like insurance or miscellaneous charges may be included, and 2.) You must wait 7 full court days before filing for an official summary possession. If you are careful to avoid all the mistakes listed above then your 5 day letter will be off to a great start.
Also, Please don’t forget! Take a look at our free content for examples of notices, mailers, letters, and guides for almost everything we do.