The Common Law
Landlord & tenant issues cash rental payments
It depends on the terms of your lease agreement. As a general rule, Texas law requires a landlord to accept a tenant's timely cash rental payment unless the written lease between the landlord and tenant specifically states that the rental payment must be made by some other means than cash. For example, some leases might require that all rental payments be by check, money order, or other negotiable instrument. Paying your landlord with a check or other traceable means is most likely in your best interests because there will be a clear record of your payment to the landlord.
Keep in mind that if you decide to pay in cash in the future (assuming your lease does not prohibit you from paying in cash), Texas law requires your landlord to do several things in order to have a record of the transaction. First, any landlord that receives a cash rental payment must provide the tenant with a written receipt. Second, the landlord must enter the payment date and amount in a record book maintained by the landlord. The hassle factor of complying with these requirements is part of the reason that some landlords prohibit cash payments in the lease agreements.
A landlord who receives cash payments and fails to comply with the above requirements could be subject to a lawsuit by the tenant, who could seek to force the landlord to comply with the laws that require a clear record-keeping of the cash payment along with claims for one month's rent or $500 (whichever is greater) for each of the landlord's violations, court costs, and reasonable attorney's fees.
Today's column is the last in a series addressing landlord and tenant issues. For those with more questions on this topic, check out the Texas Tenants Advisor (www.texastenant.org), the Austin Tenants' Council (www.housing-rights.org), or Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code (www.capitol.state.tx.us/statutes/pr.toc.htm).
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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.mehlaw.com.
The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.