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Q. The woman who rented a house from me fifteen months ago paid her rent early or on time for the first twelve months. Ever since then, she has paid late. The first time she claimed that she mailed the payment, but it never arrived. I had to get it from her. These last two months she claimed that she was waiting for her paychecks to be signed, a flimsy excuse, I know. She has now paid me for last month, but she has paid only 15% of what she owes for this current month, and it will be past due tomorrow. I didn't charge her the late fee as listed in our contract the first time she was late because she had never been late before. I gave her the benefit of the doubt then, but being late is becoming a habit with her now, and I'm starting to feel uncomfortable about her ability to pay anything at all. I'm taking a large loss every month on this house, and I need to raise the rent to narrow the gap a bit. Should I raise the rent to make her think about moving? Is $250 per month too much? I plan to give her 45 days notice in writing of the rent raise. Then if she is late or can't pay, I'll be prepared her a notice to vacate. --G.G., California

A. You don't need me to tell you that your good tenant has gone bad and needs to be eased out. You know that yourself. You are doing the right thing by keeping the pressure on her to pay promptly. If you weren't keeping the pressure on her, she'd soon owe you a lot of back rent which you'd never be able to collect, and you'd be evicting her through the courts. You have the right idea. Ease her out by raising her rent. There's no need to make the rent raise excessive. Make it realistic. $250 might be realistic. $500 might be realistic. Find out for sure. Check the classified ads, make some phone calls, learn what your competition charges, drive by the competition for clues as to what you ought to be charging, and then determine the market rent for your house. Prepare a notice of change in terms of tenancy using this new market rent figure, and give the tenant the forty-five days you planned to give her to come to terms with this higher rent. Chances are good that she will see the typewriting on the wall and give you notice that she is leaving. If she doesn't, talk the matter of her tenancy over with her. Learn what you can about her current situation, and try to counsel her about her responsibilities. Give her no slack at all if she doesn't pay on time. Be prepared to give her a notice to pay rent or quit, and proceed to evict her if you must.

Q. Can a pregnant woman be evicted? After moving in and making her first rental payment, my tenant informed me that she and her husband had been trying for months to get pregnant and that they were finally successful. I was happy for them and gave them some slack about making their rental payments. What a fool I was! They took advantage of me. They owe me two months' rent now. I told them that I'm going to have to evict them if they don't pay up. She keeps screaming at me that I can't evict them because she's three months pregnant. She wasn't working when they moved in, but he was. To the best of my knowledge, he's still working and he's not pregnant. --C.W., Alabama

A. Some old wives' tales are true; some are half true; and some are not true at all. Here are a few which are not true at all: pregnant women should not attend funerals; a knife placed under the bed during childbirth will ease the pain of labor; a dog's saliva will kill germs; and a pregnant woman need pay no rent.

A pregnant woman may indeed be entitled to certain special benefits, such as pickles and ice cream at three in the morning, but she is not entitled to any special legal benefits. She cannot, for example, kill her husband and get away with the murder by claiming she was pregnant. She cannot run up a credit card bill and get away without paying by claiming she was pregnant. She cannot run up a bill for rent and get away without paying by claiming she was pregnant.

A pregnant woman's legal obligations are not on hold during her pregnancy.

If a pregnant woman were to receive a "Get nine months of free rent" card at the onset of her pregnancy, no landlord would ever rent to women who could become pregnant.

Give this pregnant tenant of yours and her husband a notice to pay rent or quit today. It begins the legal process of eviction. Tell them that neither the cricket in their house nor the rabbit's foot in their pockets will bring them the luck they need to keep you from evicting them through the courts. That's inevitable. Tell them that when they move, they should make sure that they do not take their broom along with them and that they should avoid stepping on the cracks in the front walkway.

Oh yes, ask this tenant of yours whether she's been eating any watermelon seeds lately. Tell her you've heard that a watermelon will grow in a woman's stomach if she swallows watermelon seeds. She may not be pregnant at all.
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