Can landlords require you to pay rent in cash or electronically?

Know when (and when not) your California landlord can require you to pay rent in cash or online.

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Question

Can my landlord (I live in California) require me to pay rent in cash or online?

Answer

Landlords in California cannot initially insist that tenants pay rent only in cash. (CC § 1947.3.) “Cash” means currency, and does not include cashier’s checks or money orders, which the landlord can require in the lease or rental agreement. That said, if,  later on, you bounce a check or stop payment on a rent check, your landlord can insist on cash payment of the rent. Before doing so, the landlord must first give you a written notice, and the demand for cash payment may last no longer than three months. Also, landlords in California may not insist that tenants pay rent only via electronic funds transfer.

Specifically, the law allows you and the landlord to agree to pay rent in cash or via electronic funds transfer, but the landlord must allow another payment alternative, such as checks, unless you bounce a check.

For other California rent rules, see the Nolo article California Late Fees, Termination for Nonpayment of Rent, and Other Rent Rules. For details on tenants’ rights when it comes to leases and rental agreements, rent payments, and more, see California Tenants’ Rights, by Janet Portman and David Brown.

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