Below are questions asked by rental property owners regarding California property management, followed by answers provided by the law firm of Simone and Blevins.
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. My lease says that I can demand cash payments if my tenant attempts to pay with a dishonored check. Can I require that my tenant pay me in cash?
A: Yes, you can demand your tenant to pay the rent in cash 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. If your lease 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. My lease does not have a provision addressing bad checks. Can I charge my tenant a $75 dishonored check fee?
A: No, you cannot charge your tenant a $75 dishonored check fee because the amount is too high and because your lease does not address bad checks. In California, there is a bad check statute that limits the amount that can be charged for a returned check. Under the statute, for a 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, if the lease specifically includes a provision that informs the tenant that a service fee will be charged for administration of bad checks.
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 tenants pay me in cash?
A: No, you cannot demand the tenants to pay you in cash, solely because it is your preference. A landlord is required to allow a tenant to pay rent and 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.
The law firm of Simone & Blevins has been doing evictions for over 28 years. The office is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Tel: 619-235-6180,
website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email [email protected].