Whether you accept actual checks or electronic rent payments from your tenants, you may face a time when the tenant lacks funds to cover their payment—and your account is hit with a fee. Bounced checks cause loss of time and productivity, and landlords should not allow tenants to treat a returned rent check as anything less than the serious situation it is.
How do you handle bounced checks from your tenants?
Many landlords we know demand immediate full payment from the tenant for the rent, any applicable late fees, and a separate handling fee. The handling fee should cover both your bank’s returned check charge and your administrative time. If the full rent payment comes in after late fees have been assessed, be sure to add them to the total due.
Check your local and state laws regarding the amount of late and returned check fees you can charge. You may be able to charge a tenant penalties and interest; or you may be limited to a flat fee.
In addition, check local and state ordinances or with a landlord/tenant attorney regarding whether late and returned check fees must be spelled out in lease agreements. In some states and localities, fees must be clearly stated in the lease or the landlord may not charge them. In others, whether or not the lease includes the fees has no bearing.
Of course, including all applicable terms and fees in the lease is always a good idea. If your lease clearly spells out the consequences for bounced checks, including late fees, repayment requirements and time limits before eviction proceedings begin, your tenants should have no questions or surprises if and when they do write a rent check without having sufficient funds to cover it.