Q: We had to move out of our rental, and after looking for several weeks, we found a house we like at a rent we can afford. The new landlord uses a different lease form that requires rent payments to be made in cash. We are worried we will be unable to prove we paid if something comes up. Is this legit? — Cindy
A: A lease is a contract, and a landlord and tenant can agree to the form of payment. Some leases ban cash payments, while others require them. I have even seen some that require the tenant to deposit the rent directly into the landlord’s bank account.
Keeping good records is always important, but it is a must when paying rent in cash. Ensure you get a dated and signed receipt for every payment, including your first, last, and security payments. While you are at it, carefully review the entire lease to ensure you are good with its requirements.
While rental fraud is uncommon, it does exist. Check the property records online to make sure you are dealing with the actual owner of the property.
While it may be uncomfortable, there is nothing wrong with asking the landlord to see ID to make sure they are who they say they are. If something seems off, investigate further.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. If your gut tells you something is wrong, you may be better off walking away.
You should also review the law regarding rentals. The statute can be found by searching “landlord-tenant statute” online. These laws are designed to be user-friendly and relatively easy to understand. Read through it so you know your rights and responsibilities, bearing in mind that your written lease agreement can modify some of these rules and create additional responsibilities for you and your landlord.
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