Paying rent in cash can be risky business. Unlike the case with a check or credit card, cash isn't easily traceable. If your cash rental payment gets lost or falls into the wrong hands, you could face an uphill battle trying to convince your landlord that you paid the rent in full and on time. Not only do you risk losing a substantial amount of money, but you could also face eviction through no fault of your own.
Cash Rental Payment Precautions
Whether you pay rent in cash on a regular basis or just do it occasionally, it's important to protect yourself by taking certain precautions:
- Never send cash payments through the mail. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes things get lost in the mail. And when it happens, parcels can be very hard to trace. A much more common problem is mail getting stolen from private mailboxes. It's also possible an unscrupulous staffer may pocket some or all of the cash found in mail. In all of these cases, you'll probably have no way to prove that you paid the full amount of the rent on time.
- Hand cash to an authorized recipient. Give your cash payment directly to your landlord or to a property management staffer authorized to accept it. If a maintenance worker tells you he's headed to the management office and offers to deliver your rent, politely decline. Even if the worker is honest, there's too much of a chance the cash could get lost or not arrive at its proper destination. Plus, if you don't deliver the rent personally, you can't get a receipt on the spot (see below).
- Don't leave without a receipt. You need proof that you paid your rent in cash, in case questions arise later. So, if you pay cash, request a written receipt each time. Make sure the date, time, and amount are legible on the receipt, as well as the name and signature of the person who received the rent. If your landlord says he'll mail you a receipt, insist that you need one now. A receipt is easy to create, so there's no reason your landlord can't give you a receipt right when you give him your cash. If the issue is that the landlord doesn't have his usual receipt forms with him or the computers are down, get a handwritten receipt with all the information on a piece of paper. Your landlord can mail you the more "official" receipt later. Some landlords have a lot of tenants and may not remember accepting payment or any kind of verbal agreement with individuals.
- Keep rent receipts in a safe place. Rent receipts are no good if they're lost. If your landlord later questions whether you've paid your rent, you don't want to be stuck without proof, nor do you want to have to rummage frantically through your papers to find the right receipts. Keep all your rent receipts organized in a safe, sensible place, such as in a folder or box where you have your lease. You will have only 12 receipts per year, so it's not difficult to keep them all together in a safe place.