Should tenants worry if a landlord doesn’t cash a rent check?
There are two reasons to worry about your landlord not cashing your rent check. One, you lack proof of payment. Two, the landlord may claim you never paid as a pretext to eviction. In most cases, landlords who do not cash rent checks are merely procrastinating or disorganized. They might misplace a check under a stack of papers or simply never get around to going to the bank.
The first step is following up to make sure they got your check. Doing this by email or text helps to create a written record of a payment attempt. If this is an ongoing issue and you pay in person, ask for a receipt each time. You may consider asking your landlord to set up automatic bank transfers or an online payment service to skip checks altogether. Keep in mind that a landlord taking too long to cash your check or even losing your check and asking for a new one does not mean you don't owe that rent. You just don't want your landlord charging late fees or filing for eviction when you paid on time.
While rare, you may also find yourself in a situation where the landlord is trying to evict you and refusing rent. This may be because the lease has ended and the landlord does not want to renew, but it can also happen in places with strong tenant protections where the landlord may not be able to evict without cause. In this latter situation, document everything. Send your rent payments and communications using certified mail or some other trackable method. It's also a good idea to talk to a lawyer if you think your landlord is trying to evict you without cause.
What can I do if my landlord will not accept my rent?
If your landlord will not accept rent, document your attempt to pay. Keep the money in your account or retain the money order. If there’s an issue with a property manager not accepting the rent, contact your landlord to find out why.
A landlord may refuse to accept rent if they are trying to evict you. State or local law may even make refusing rent a required procedure for certain types of eviction, such as when the landlord does not want to renew a lease. In many places, landlords will need a valid reason to evict, and a landlord refusing rent typically will not be acceptable on its own. However, if a landlord does move forward with an eviction attempt claiming that you failed to pay the rent, you will need to show evidence that you tried to pay and payments were refused. Tenants facing an eviction, or a landlord refusing to accept rent, should consider asking a lawyer about their options as early on as possible. Most issues can be resolved.
Can I withhold rent if my landlord does not fix problems?
Many jurisdictions enable tenants to withhold rent if the landlord does not fix a maintenance problem, especially if it is a habitability issue or a service expressly provided for in the lease.
There are procedures, however, you may need to follow, such as notifying the landlord in writing. Depending on state or local law, you may need to deposit the money in trust with a designated authority or escrow agent in your area. There may also be rules regarding how much you can withhold depending on the severity of the issue. If you don't follow the legal procedure exactly, or you unreasonably withhold rent, the landlord may be able to evict you for non-payment.
What can a tenant do if a landlord will not respond to requests?
If a landlord does not respond to problems or maintenance requests, document each attempt to contact them and make a Complaint to Landlord to send via certified mail or other trackable method. If the landlord does not respond to your complaint in a reasonable time, then seeking out legal help may be in order. What is a reasonable amount of time can vary depending on the issue and state or local law. Some jurisdictions may have timelines for certain issues that impact habitability, such as fixing a broken heater during the winter.
If the landlord does not respond to habitability problems, you may have the right to break your lease without penalty or to withhold rent to fix the problem. If your rental home is uninhabitable and you incur expenses or your personal property is damaged as a result, you may be able to sue the landlord for those costs.
Rocket Lawyer can help tenants find the right documents to communicate problems to their landlord. Reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney or use the Rocket Lawyer Mobile App to get legal help dealing with your landlord, withholding rent, an eviction, or other housing issue.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.