What to do with a Bounced Check
In an ideal world, your tenants would never have trouble paying their rent. But of course we all know that isn’t always the case. While you might sometimes accept a late payment from a long-term, loyal tenant, a bounced check can be a whole other matter. Bounced checks can actually cost you money in fees, not to mention you now have to spend energy and resources collecting the overdue rent.
As with all legal matters, a bit of prevention can prevent a big headache later. The first step to dealing with bounced rent checks actually comes before the first check is ever written! Make sure to have a real estate attorney review your leasing forms, to make sure all rights and responsibilities are spelled out for both landlord and tenant. You should clearly outline a procedure for dealing with returned checks, so that your tenant is prepared for the inevitable action should they ever write you a bad check.
If your bank collects a fee for submitting a returned check, you might be able to recover that amount from your tenant. In addition, make sure your lease clearly outlines a course of action for late rent payments. By the time your bank notifies you that a check has been returned, several days or even a week may have gone by. At this point you have to not only talk to your tenant about the dishonored check, but also about their late rent.
Normally, you can’t require cash payments from tenants. However, if a tenant has paid you with a dishonored check within the last three months, you can ask that payments be submitted in cash. By law, you must give your tenant the amount of notice specified for any routine changes to the lease. Submit the notice in writing, attach a copy of the dishonored check, and inform your tenant that rent shall be paid in cash.
If your leasing forms have been reviewed by a real estate attorney and are compliant with the law, you shouldn’t have any problems requesting cash from your tenants or collecting late rent payments. And if your leasing forms clearly outlined the procedure for dealing with bounced checks, your tenants shouldn’t feel surprised by your actions.
BY: R. TODD FRAHM, ATTORNEY AT LAW