Can a Landlord Refuse Rent Payment?

Moving into a rental unit means that the most significant payment you’ll be making every month is rent.

Before you even move into the apartment, you’ll have to pay a certain amount in advance.

However, there are some cases in which the landlord may have the right to refuse payment.

What are the Basics of Landlord-Tenant Law?

The laws which concern the landlord and tenant relationship can vary from one state to the other. However, most of them cover the same points.

They protect the tenant from unlawful evictions without cause. They also provide landlords with rights as well. They have the right to serve a tenant an eviction notice for a cause in the following circumstances:

  • Causing damage to a property
  • Conducting criminal activity on the premises
  • Repeatedly paying your rent late
  • Violating one or more terms of the lease agreement several times and not taking any corrective actions

In any of these scenarios, the landlord can serve you with what is called an unconditional quit notice.

This is the harshest punishment that you can receive and you won’t have the chance to make up for the mistakes anymore. You can’t keep living in the apartment as a result.

Other notices that you can receive are less severe. These include:

  • Pay rent or quit: This notice is accompanied by a notice period. The landlord gives you a certain number of days in which you’re supposed to pay back the rent past the due date. If you fail to do so, you’ll be required to vacate the apartment.
  • Cure or quit: If you go against a specified term or lease agreement then you’ll be given a set time period to make amends. You can then rectify what you’ve done wrong or face eviction.

According to several state laws, you will be required to pay rent as stipulated in the rental agreement. Hence, whatever happens, if you’ve honored the landlord’s agreement, then you shouldn’t be worried.

Even if the landlord doesn’t take your payment, if you’ve been honoring the agreement, you won’t need to worry.

You should save proof of providing rent or that you attempted to do so.

Prove You Paid the Rent

In case the landlord does turn down your rent payment even if you’ve been a good tenant, you should have proof. The proof shouldn’t just encompass whether you paid the rent, but that you attempted to pay it.

To do this, you need to send a rental payment via registered or certified mail to the address of the landlord.

This should be the one that is listed on the lease agreement. Remember to abide by all technicalities of the agreement when you’re gathering proof.

When can a Landlord Refuse Rent?

There are some very basic instances when a landlord can refuse rent from a tenant:

  • If you pay a portion of your rent instead of the whole amount. The lease agreement you sign usually requires the full payment to be made.
  • If you try to make the payment after you’ve been given an eviction notice unless the payment is meant to cover rental arrears you have.
  • When a lease comes to an end your landlord may take the necessary steps to give you the notice to vacate the property. Under that circumstance, landlords aren’t under any further payments from you.
  • If your lease requires you to pay rent through specific methods, by check, for example, they can refuse payment through other means.

If your landlord keeps turning down your payments successively, that should be cause for worry.

It could be a sign of eviction or of some other problems. Certain landlords can use this approach to get rid of tenants they can’t evict legally.

It’s important to know your rights in a situation like this. This will help you stop the eviction process if it’s unlawful.

Can You be Served an Eviction Notice without Cause?

In certain cases, you can be served an eviction notice without cause. If you’re willing to pay rent, and you haven’t gone against the rules of the lease, you can still be presented one.

This is known as eviction without cause. When the landlord puts this into effect, you have to be given time to plan out your move.

In most states in the US, the landlord has to give you at least a 30 to a 60-day period prior to eviction. This is especially true when eviction without cause is concerned.

This period allows you to find a new home. However, there are certain exceptions to the right of landlords when it comes to eviction without cause.

In rent-controlled cities, landlords are required to provide proof of legally recognized reasons for evicting a tenant. This statute is referred to as “just cause eviction protection”. It protects tenants from eviction without cause.

Retaliation and Discrimination

While landlords do reserve the right to present you with eviction notices without cause, you can fight those that are illegal. Landlords can’t refuse payment in an attempt to evict you in the case of discrimination.

If you can prove that they’re evicting you because of your religion, race, family status, or country of origin, you can sue.

Also, your landlord can’t evict you as a punishment for taking action against them for a legitimate issue.

Say there’s a problem with your heating system for instance. If you lodge a complaint against your landlord, you shouldn’t worry about retaliation. It’s illegal.

In certain states like California, discriminatory or retaliatory actions against you are illegal. If you worry that your landlord is trying to evict you because of these reasons, you should take steps to report them.

Eviction Lawsuits

You can also be served notices for vacation by your landlord simply for vacation. If you fail to do so, you can be served with a notice for eviction.

Landlords are expected to serve you with summons and complaint to proceed with the eviction. You can use certain defenses to get this request thrown out.

You can show proof that your landlord failed to follow the correct procedures for eviction. You can also rectify the defects in the lease and show that there’s no reason for eviction.

Accepting Payments After Eviction Notices

If your landlord chooses to accept payments after they serve you with an eviction notice, they waive their right to evict.

Hence, if a tenant is served a notice today, and a landlord accepts partial payment tomorrow, the eviction in invalid.

If they fail to pay the rent on time the next month, that doesn’t constitute grounds for eviction. The ‘pay or quit’ process will have to start again.

It’s up to a landlord whether they choose to accept payment during the ‘pay or quit’ timeline. If their tenants are good and they’re rarely late, the landlord may choose to cut them some slack.

However, for those that are always late, they may find it hard to persuade the landlord.

Any payment at all, partial or full, if accepted after the eviction notice, invalidates the eviction process.

Exceptions to the Rule

In certain states or territories, tenants can pay partial payments after they’re served eviction notices, and still be evicted. The laws allowing this are relatively new.

In certain areas, only commercial landlords are allowed to collect rent after the eviction notice. However, residential landlords do come under this exception in certain areas too.

Some landlords figure that if the tenants want to pay them in full or partial afterward, it’s in their best interests. Finding new tenants and getting another steady stream of capital is hard, after all.

It’s also hard to get payments owed in rent through a small claims court. That’s why landlords prefer not to get into the business of collecting owed rent at all.

Other landlords think that taking further payments is justified since the rent owed should be collected. However, the fact remains that tenants have the upper hand if the landlord collects from them afterward.

Certain tenants may take advantage of this and keep sending in late payments. This trick doesn’t work on seasoned landlords, but rather those that are new in the business.

Resources for Tenants

If you want to figure out the best strategy to fight eviction, you can refer to the US Housing and Urban Development department. Their website has a list of all the laws in every state concerning eviction.

The limitations of landlords and tenants are outlined pretty simply.

The eviction notices are different for those living in commercial property vs. housing projects.

If you currently live in a government-subsidized housing program, there are additional resources you can use to help during the eviction.

Remember that state, county, and city jurisdictions have laws that are specific regarding eviction. Your landlord has to follow these procedures. Deviating from them means the eviction processes can be deemed illegal.

If you don’t have any other resources, you should probably get legal help. Most cities and counties have legal aid and tenants’ rights associations to provide legal advice for free.

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