Lots of tenants are absolutely convinced that if rent is due on the 1st, they actually have until the 5th (or sometimes the 7th or even the 10th) of the month to pay, because they are within what they believe to be a legal grace period. Sorry, but this is not true. Rent is legally due on the date specified in your agreement (usually the first of the month), and in the form of payment (usually check) that the landlord requires.
Rent Is Usually Due the First of the Month
Your lease or rental agreement should spell out the details on when rent is due and where and how to pay it. Most leases and rental agreements call for rent to be paid monthly, in advance, on the first day of the month. However, landlords are normally legally free to establish a different monthly payment date—or even to require that rent be paid weekly or bimonthly. Some landlords make the rent payable each month on the date the tenant first moved in. Most find it easier, however, to prorate rent for a short first month and thereafter collect rent on the first of the month. As with most rental issues, your landlord calls the shots on these things. It doesn’t hurt to negotiate, however, if you really prefer a different rent due date.
If the Due Date Falls on a Weekend or Legal Holiday
Most lease and rental agreements state that when the rent due date falls on a weekend day or legal holiday, the tenant must pay rent by the next business day. This sensible practice is legally required in some states and is the general practice in most. If your landlord insists on receiving the rent check by the first of the month (or other due date), even if mail is not delivered on that day, take a look at the law in your state—you may find that your landlord is violating it. If not, you may have to bite the bullet and get your rent in early.
Expect to Mail Your Rent Check to Your Landlord
Your lease or rental agreement probably also states where you should pay the rent and how it should be paid. Mailing your rent check to the landlord’s business address is the most common method of rent payment, unless your landlord or manager has an on-site office. If you mail your rent check, make sure that it arrives on the due date. It is not sufficient to mail your check on the day it is due.
Tenants often feel that the form of payment—cash or check—should be up to them. Unfortunately, it’s not your call. Most landlords require rent be paid by check or money order, but some landlords now allow payment by credit card (a great way to build up frequent flyer miles!) or automatic debit (rent payments are debited automatically each month from your bank account and transferred into the landlord’s account).
These days, many landlords won’t accept rent in cash—they don’t want the risk of keeping large amounts of cash on hand. Your safety, too, will be imperiled if the word gets out that you regularly make a trip to the manager’s office carrying several hundred dollars in cash. If you must pay in cash, be sure to get a written, dated receipt stating your name and the amount paid. It’s your only proof that you did, indeed, pay the rent.
What Happens If You Don’t Pay Rent on Time?
If you don’t pay rent when it’s due, expect your landlord to do the following:
- call, email, or otherwise contact you, demanding the rent
- begin assessing late fees if there is a late fee provision in your lease or rental agreement, and
- send you a termination notice, telling you that if the rent is not paid within a certain number of days or if you haven’t moved out by then, he’ll begin eviction proceedings.