Can a Landlord Refuse Rent Payment?

Landlords and tenant relationships are strained from the very beginning, especially when it comes to payment. So is there ever a time when your landlord can refuse rent payment?

There are a few legal instances in which landlords do have the right to refuse payment. These might be under specific conditions in your rental contract and during the eviction process.

Here’s what you need to know about landlords’ right to refuse rent payments.

Can a landlord refuse rent payment?

Yes, a landlord can refuse rent payments, but there are specific situations where this is allowed (which we will discuss later in this article).

Before we get those situations, you need to know the basics of landlord-tenant law and how they work in individual contracts.

Landlord-tenant law – An Overview

The landlord tenant law is heavily guided by what’s written in your lease agreement.

In a standard rental agreement, there are a few conditions.

  • You, the renter, agree to pay a set amount in full by a certain date on a regular schedule, usually on a monthly basis.
  • You, the renter, agree to hold the property to a certain standard of maintenance and repair and agree to certain lifestyle restrictions (ie, no pets, no smoking, less noise, etc).
  • Your landlord agrees to allow you to live in their property for the duration of your contract and often provides utilities, electricity, and small standard home repairs.

The exact terms will vary from state to state, but they will always include a set lease term (usually between six months and up to about three years) and a set payment plan.

Rental payment plans are usually quite specific.

They can include the exact day and time payments are due, whether they’re due in full (they usually are), and the payment method.

You should know and discuss all of the terms of your lease before signing the contract. You should also keep a copy of your rental contract for your records.

Now, since your right to stay in conditional on many things mentioned in the lease agreement, in case you violate any of those, it gives your landlord to refuse rent and/or evict you.

Also read: How Do Apartments Check Rental History? 

In What Situations can a Landlord can Refuse Rent Payment

Landlords can refuse rent payments for certain breaches of the rental contract.

These include instances where you are:

  • Paying a portion of your rent rather than the full amount (or you’re making multiple partial payment instead of the full monthly payment)
  • While your landlord may accomodate an occasional late payemnt, if you’re constantly late, this may give the landlord a case to refuse rent
  • Making a payment after the end of the contract term or an eviction notice has been served
  • While this is not a big issue in most cases, some landlords can be very specific about how the rent is paid. For example, if your lease agreement says that payment can only be made via cheque, the landlord may refuse to take cash as the rent.

These constitute violations of your agreement, rendering it void. This means that your landlord is not legally allowed to accept payment for it anymore.

When Can Landlord NOT Refuse Rent Payment?

Now it’s not all bad. There are instances where you have rights as a tenant and your landlord can not refuse to accept the payment.

Here are some:

  • If you haven’t violated anything in your retn agreement
  • If you have a history of regular payments and are attempting to pay your rent in full on the agreed-upon day
  • If the landlord has not given you adequate notice of your eviction

If your landlord refuses to accept your payment without a proper and obvious cause, then it is time to seek further action.

Landlord Refuses Rent Payment – What to Do?

There are, unfortunately, some instances where you may be dealing with a shady or underhanded landlord deliberately trying to evict you.

This can be dangerous and costly.

If your landlord refuses your rent payment without cause, you’ll need to gather proof that you’ve upheld the contract, collect your payment histories, and seek legal representation.

Gather Proof of Contractual Fulfillment

First, you’ll want to gather any and all records you have regarding previous payments made on time. This might include your rental contract, bank statements, and any certified mail receipts.

Make a detailed list of all of your previous payments and their alignment with your rental agreement. You may need this to prove reliability to the court.

At the same time, take a detailed inventory of the rental property, including pictures. Gather any documentation you have about the state of the property at the start of your rental contract.

You may also go a step further and collect statements from your neighbors about your behaviors as a tenant. This can prove that you weren’t being unruly or allowing unapproved guests.

Gather Proof of Attempted Payment

Once you’ve got proof that you’re upholding your end of the contract, you’ll need proof that you have done everything in your power to attempt to pay your rent in full.

Send your rent payment via certified or registered mail. This ensures that you’ll have documentation of both sending it and that they received it or refused to accept delivery.

If they refuse to accept the delivery, deposit the funds for your payment into an escrow account – that is, deposit them into a holding account dedicated to this specific payment purpose.

When to take legal action

Once you’ve gathered the necessary documentation, you’re ready to consult a legal expert. They can guide you toward the appropriate next steps.

You should also consult your local Housing and Urban Development department for advice on your area’s eviction laws.

This way, if your landlord tries to evict you, you can defend yourself.

Eviction notices and post-eviction payments

If your landlord isn’t accepting your payments, they may be attempting to evict you.

On the other hand, they may not be accepting your payments because of an impending eviction.

Eviction is a frightening concept to many tenants and is seen as one of the most extreme ways a landlord can take action against their tenant. Because of this, it’s covered by strict laws.

Here’s how eviction plays into the issue of rent payment refusal.

The legal terms for evictions

In most states, your landlord is required to both provide an adequate reason and appropriate notice for eviction. This is especially true in rent-controlled cities.

Legally, a landlord can evict you for any significant breach of your contract, including 

  • A pattern of late payment or nonpayment
  • Serious property damage
  • Participating in illegal activities on the premises
  • Bringing pets into a “no pet” property
  • Allowing non-tenants to stay in the property for extended periods of time
  • Repeatedly refusing to take corrective action for breaches of contract

Most states require between 30 and 90 days of notice to afford tenants time to find a new place to live.

They also cannot evict tenants during a national eviction freeze and other federal orders.

That being said, in some states and cities, landlords are allowed to evict without notice or a declared cause. This is rare, though, and the exception to the rule.

Taking payments after the eviction notice

Most states have laws saying that even a partial payment made toward rent from an evicted party that is accepted by the landlord is grounds to void the eviction notice.

Because of this, your landlord is unlikely to accept any payment, partial or full, after an eviction notice has been served. Otherwise, they’ll need to start the eviction process all over again.

In some states, however, and in some individual rental contracts, it is specified that tenants are responsible for paying the rent for the full term of the lease regardless of eviction.

This means that, depending on where you live, should you be served with an eviction notice but still make a payment, your landlord can still evict you and collect rent for months afterward.

Be sure to check the rules for eviction in your state and re-read your rental agreement to see what your individual situation is. Discuss it before signing if possible.

Where to find help for a landlord-tenant dispute

There are many places you can go to find help in the event of a landlord-tenant dispute over refused rent payments. 

  • The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has an online master list of the legal rights of tenants by state available on their website.
  • The Tenant Resource Center is an organization dedicated to protecting tenants’ rights. Their website is full of information on the latest laws, changes, and resources.
  • Find Law lets you search for information about legal issues. It has a page dedicated to the forms and laws of property rental and landlord-tenant agreements.
  • Nolo has a list of legal resources for tenants across the United States as well as an FAQ section for other property rental legal issues.
  • The National Fair Housing Alliance is an organization dedicated to making fair and affordable housing available to all Americans.
  • The American Bar Association’s pro bono and public service page can help you find low and no-cost representation.

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