Q: Our lease states that we must pay the rent in cash. Because of the Safer at Home orders in place, we do not want to go to the bank to get the money. We offered to pay with a check or even have our bank transfer the funds, but our landlord refused. We want to stay safe during the pandemic. What can we do? — Amanda
A: It is crucial always to get a receipt when paying your rent in cash. You agreed to pay your landlord in cash, and that is what you should do when possible.
But the unexpected sometimes happens, and even a well-drafted lease cannot foresee every situation. The COVID-19 pandemic caught the entire world unawares, and implicit in every contract is the promise that the parties will deal fairly with each other in good faith.
Given the current situation, my legal opinion is that your landlord is required to accept an alternate form of rent, and if he refuses, you will not be in breach of the lease.
You should be documenting all communication with your landlord about this issue. Save emails, texts, and take a picture of the written check. If he later chooses to try to evict you, these notes will be critical to your defense.
I find his refusal to accept a check to be very suspicious. With the massive unemployment, most landlords are happy to have tenants eager to pay rent. This is especially true since Florida and most states have delayed residential evictions for the next month or two.
When renting a home, the landlord will check out the tenant before agreeing to let the property. It is equally important for a tenant to make sure the landlord is legit.
The fact that your landlord is demanding cash payments opens the possibility that he may not be who he says. Check your county property appraiser’s website to confirm who the owner is. Any legit landlord would be willing to show their driver’s license to prove they are who they say they are.
Rental fraud is more common than most people think, and tenants have to be diligent.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.
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