Q: My tenant paid his January rent with a personal check. Several days after I deposited the check, the bank notified me that the check was dishonored because there were insufficient funds. I no longer want to accept personal checks from this tenant.  Can I demand payment of rent in cash?

A: Yes, if your lease or rental agreement provides for cash payment after your tenant pays you with a dishonored check, then you can demand cash payment for the following three months from the date the check was dishonored. 

In order to demand a cash payment, you must serve the tenant with a notice in writing and provide a copy of the dishonored check. However, if your lease or rental agreement does not address dishonored checks, then you may not demand cash payments, unless your tenant agrees in writing or you provide your tenant with a proper thirty-day notice of change in terms of tenancy.  

Q: My tenant wrote me a bad check for January rent. I want him to pay a $75 dishonored check fee. Can I charge him the $75 dishonored check fee?

A: No, in California there is a bad check statute that governs the amount that can be charged for a returned check in a rental agreement or lease. The statute allows landlords to collect a service charge instead of the dishonored check fee. Additionally, your lease must include language requiring the tenant to pay a fee for dishonored checks for the charge to be legally enforceable.  Since this is the tenant’s first instance of writing a “bad” check, you can charge them up to $25 as a service charge, and $35 for each subsequent dishonored check. 

 

Q: I prefer for my tenants to pay rent in cash so that I do not have to go to the bank. Can I demand that the tenant pay me in cash?

A: No, you cannot demand the tenant pay you in cash solely because it is your preference. A landlord is required to allow a tenant to pay rent and deposit a security deposit in at least one additional form of payment that is neither cash nor electronic funds transfer. If your lease or rental agreement only allows for payment of rent in cash or electronic funds transfer, then you should provide and serve the tenant with a thirty-day notice of change in terms to allow for additional forms of payment. 

 

Q: My tenant pays her rent in cash every month on the first day of the month. This month she asked me for a rent receipt. Do I have to give her a rent receipt?

A: Yes, legally you are required to give the tenant a written receipt upon receiving the monthly rent. The receipt should include the tenant’s name, address, date rent was received, amount of rent paid, type of payment, and the outstanding rent owed, if any. Further, in addition to providing your tenant with receipts for payments received, you should also keep an updated ledger of all rent payments received.  Both the receipts and the ledger are useful evidence in any future disputes you may have with your tenant about payment of rent.

 

Q: I am a landlord and my tenant normally pays me the rent in person. A person I have never met is trying to pay the rent on behalf of my tenant.  The check has the name of the third party on it and I do not want to create a tenancy with this new party.  Do I have to accept it? 

A: It depends. As of August 28, 2018, residential landlords are required to accept rent from a third party if the third party provides the landlord with a written and signed acknowledgment stating the   following: 1) the third party is not a tenant; and 2) accepting the rent does not create a landlord-tenant relationship with the third party. If you do not receive this acknowledgment, then you are not required to accept the third-party payment. 

 

Attorney Franco Simone, of Simone & Associates and The Landlords’ Legal Center, has been doing evictions for over 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email info@simonelawfirm.com.