Paying Rent: Paying Late and Other Pitfalls
January 28, 2023
Paying rent is something that is required by every tenant to cover the cost of their apartment. Most leases will include the exact way in went rent should be paid and details for when it is late. Austin Tenants' Council shares the laws in Texas for paying rent.
Tenants need to make sure they know exactly how the landlord wants to receive rent payments. It's best to have a clear understanding of the terms before any problems come up.
You should be asking things like:
"Does rent have be hand-delivered or is mail okay?"
"Is there a drop box or mailbox in which you can place the rent?"
"What record of receipt will the landlord provide?"
These are a few starter questions, but the most important thing is to get the conversation going and establish as much clarity and understanding as possible between the renter and the landlord.
If the lease says that rent can be mailed and doesn't say anything about rent having to be received within a grace period, the paid date is the date of the postmark. The standard leases from the Texas Apartment Association and the Texas Association of Realtors do not accept the postmark as paying on time. Both these leases say that rent has to be received by the landlord within the grace period.
The danger with putting your rent in a mailbox or drop box is that it can be lost, misplaced or stolen. If it turns up missing, it is up to the tenant to prove that rent was paid on time. So it's a good idea to bring a witness when you drop your rent in a drop box or mailbox. You and another neighbor could go together to act as witnesses for each other.
If you pay your rent by cash or money order, be sure to get a receipt from your landlord. The Texas Property Code requires the landlord to provide a written receipt in this instance. If rent is paid with a money order, it needs to have the tenant's name, address, and month of the rent payment on it. If you do put the rent in the drop box or mailbox, get a written receipt as soon as possible.
If rent is late, the landlord can proceed with legal action, including eviction. So if you know you are going to have to pay rent late, contact your landlord as soon as possible and work out an agreement so you can keep the rent current. If you do reach an agreement, make sure you get it in writing.
As far as late fees for paying the rent after the due date, most leases stipulate these. In order for a landlord to charge late fees, notice must be written in the lease, the late fee must be a reasonable estimate of damages to the landlord as a result of the late rent, and the rent has stayed unpaid a full day after the rent was originally due. In other words, if rent is due on the first, the fee could not be charged until the third.
If the landlord will not accept rent, the tenant should try again to deliver the rent, preferably on the same day and with a witness. If the landlord still refuses, mail the rent certified mail, return receipt requested.
Finally, don't forget to keep records of all your rent payments in case any discrepancies ever arise.