I recently bounced a check and my landlord charged me a $30 service fee. Is that legal?
It's legal for landlords to charge tenants an extra fee if a rent check bounces—but only if you knew if advance (in the lease or rental agreement, orally, or by means of an obvious sign in the rental office where you bring your monthly rent) that the fee would be charged.
All returned check charges (like late rent fees) must be reasonable. In most states, this means that the landlord can charge whatever the bank charges for a returned check, such as $10-20, plus a little extra for the landlord's trouble. And some state rent rules set a limit on returned check fees. Landlords in California, for example, may charge $25 for the first bounced check, and $35 for each additional check. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1719 (2023).)
Keep in mind that if you regularly bounce your rent check, you might face the unpleasant surprise of a tenancy termination notice, or a demand from the landlord that you pay the rent by money order or another cash equivalent.