A lot of the rules around how and when to pay rent will be laid out in a lease agreement. That said, some states do regulate things like late fees or grace periods. Keep reading for an overview of these laws across the U.S.—or choose your state from the dropdown menu at the top of the page for more specifics.
Some states regulate payment methods
Landlords will generally mention their preferred method for rent payment in the lease. Some states do include a list of legal forms of payment, including cash—in which case, a landlord must always allow a tenant to pay that way (even if it’s not their preferred method). For instance, in California, requiring tenants to pay only in cash or online is illegal. Landlords must also give them an option of using either a check, cashier's check, or money order.
Some states mandate grace periods
A grace period is a set period of time during which a tenant can pay rent late and not be penalized. After the grace period is over, usually landlords will start to charge late fees (or even start the eviction process). In some states, such as California, a landlord can include a grace period in the lease agreement if they’d like—but they aren’t required to. In other states, like Texas or Massachusetts, the law creates a statewide grace period that all landlords must abide by.
Fees for late rent can be capped
Depending on your state, there may be laws that regulate how much a landlord can charge for late rent payments. In general, late fees should go towards reimbursing a landlord for any costs associated with the late rent—such as bank fees—rather than punishing the renter. Even if late fees are allowed by state law, landlords can only charge them if they’re also mentioned in the signed lease.
Tenants must be notified in advance of rent increases in certain states
Some states require landlords to give advance notice if they’re planning on raising the rent at the end of the lease term. In California, it’s 30 days; in Washington, it’s 60. This isn’t the case everywhere, however—in Texas, for instance, a landlord doesn’t have to let a tenant know beforehand that they’ll be raising the rent at the end of a lease term.
Rent control exists in some states and cities
In addition to advance notice of rent increases, certain places limit how much the rent can go up each year. These laws are referred to as rent control. Often, rent control exists on the city level rather than the state level—but California and Oregon have both recently passed legislation that creates statewide rent control.
Then there are other states, Texas included, with no rent control at all. That means landlords can raise the rent as much as they’d like between lease terms.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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