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Can landlord require tenant to pay rent in cash?

Under normal circumstances, California landlords cannot require the rent to be paid in cash

Question: I moved into a small rental property six years ago. Three months ago, this property was sold to a new owner. The new landlord wants me to start paying my rent in cash. I am uncomfortable about possibly not getting credit for the payment. I don't understand his motives, since I have never had a problem paying my rent. Do I have to comply with his request?

Answer: As long as your rent is current, Civil Code 1947.3 prohibits your landlord from requiring the rent to be paid in cash.

The only circumstances that allow a landlord to require payment in cash is when a tenant has paid with a check that bounces or a tenant has requested a "stop payment" on a money order or cashier's check. In these cases, a landlord can request cash payments, but the landlord must give the tenant a written notice of explanation and attach a copy of the dishonored check.

After following this notice procedure, the landlord can require cash payments but only for the following three months. If a tenant finds herself in one of these circumstances, Civil Code Section 1499 requires a landlord to provide a receipt for the rent payment in cash.

These "cash payment" rules apply to both month-to-month tenants and those on leases.

For more information, contact a local fair housing or mediation program, or Project Sentinel at (888) 324-7468, or visit http://www.housing.org.

Van Deursen is director of Dispute Resolution Programs for Project Sentinel, a Bay Area nonprofit. Send questions to info@housing.org.

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