There are multiple ways landlords can choose to accept rent from their tenants. Some do not really care how they get paid as long as they are paid. Others insist on only being paid by personal checks, cashier's checks, or money orders. Still, others use online payment portals allowing tenants to submit payments to them via their credit or debit cards, and other landlords do so via online payment portal sites.
Landlords should take steps to protect themselves against the potential for fraud, no matter how they prefer to accept their rent and security deposit payments.
While the convenience of accepting cash for rent or security deposits is tempting, landlords should avoid doing this, especially if they let tenants leave envelopes of money in a dropbox. Tenants can easily claim later that they placed more cash in an envelope than they did, leaving landlords unable to prove that they were not paid what they were owed.
If a landlord does want to accept cash payments, they need to do so only in person. They should also provide a receipt for the money, count it with the tenant and make the tenant also sign the receipt acknowledging the amount they paid. Landlords should keep a photocopy of the receipt they provided to the tenants in their files.
Many landlords do accept rent and security deposit payments via personal check. The danger of this is that there is no guarantee that the funds are in the tenant's account when they write the check. Landlords may have to pay fees for returned checks, and they might have difficulty collecting what they are owed if the checks bounce. Landlords should make photocopies of the checks they receive and only provide receipts once they clear.
Cashier's checks are one of the most secure forms of payment. The bank signs on as a guarantor of the face value of the check. This removes the worry of the funds not being available when the check is presented to the bank for payment. Landlords should still make photocopies of cashier's checks and provide receipts to the tenants.
Money orders are also a good way for tenants to pay rent. They can get these at banks, post offices, or convenience stores. Since they pay cash for the money order's face value, landlords simply need to deposit or cash them. They should, of course, photocopy the money orders as well as the receipts they provide.
Landlords should avoid accepting credit card payments. Tenants can challenge the charges made to their cards. Accepting credit cards for rent payments also means the landlord will have to pay transaction costs for each payment.
Online Payment Portals
This is a very secure way to accept rent payments. Tenants log in to the site and make their rent payment via an ACH transaction. This is then immediately withdrawn from their bank accounts. Landlords can keep copies of receipts, and the systems send copies electronically to the tenants as well.
While there are various ways landlords can accept rent or security deposit payments from their tenants, it is best to do so using one of the most secure forms, such as via cashier's checks, money orders, or online payment portals. No matter how rent is accepted, landlords should always photocopy the payment instrument and the receipt they give to their tenants, maintaining them in files in the event they are later needed in court.