To avoid disputes with tenants, and to help ensure that tenants pay their rent on time and without hassle, your lease or rental agreement should clearly specify all rent-related details. These include:
- the amount of monthly rent (there’s no limit except for properties covered by rent control)
- when rent is due, such as the first of the month, and any grace periods (be sure to clarify what happens when the rent due date falls on a weekend or legal holiday, in which case, some landlords allow rent to be paid the next business day)
- how the tenant must deliver rent, such as by mail (to a specific mailing address), in person (such as your office and what hours), or by electronic transfer (within any state restrictions, as is the case of California, for example)
- forms of rent payment you accept, such as personal or cashier’s check, credit card, money order, and/or cash
- returned check charges (if a tenant bounces a check), which should be reasonable (generally no more than the amount your bank charges you for a returned check), and
- late rent fees (as long as they comply with state limits on the amount of late fees or when they can be collected).
In addition to clearly spelling out your rent rules in your lease or rental agreement, landlords should be fair and consistent about enforcing these rules, and avoid tenant charges of retaliation or discrimination. And if rent isn’t paid on time, you should follow through, as soon as possible, with a legal notice telling the tenant to pay rent or move.
For details on rent rules in your state, including any limits on late rent and bounced check fees, the amount of notice landlords must give to increase rent, state laws on termination for nonpayment of rent, and other issues, such as rent control, see State-by-State Basic Rent Rules and Tenancy Terminations for Nonpayment of Rent on the Nolo site.
Also, Nolo’s books for landlords (Every Landlord’s Legal Guide and The California Landlord’s Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities) provide detailed advice on establishing rent policies and complying with state rent rules when it comes to setting rent, increasing rent, or terminating a tenancy for nonpayment of rent.