Good news and bad news for renters in 2017.
The good: you may soon no longer have to write out a rent check. The bad: that convenience may cost you more, and some tenants are not happy.
No More Rent Checks
Tenants have always struggled to come up with money for their landlord, as immortalized in the 1996 Broadway musical "Rent."
But now, 20 years after that landmark show, landlords are going high tech to collect the rent, directly from your bank account, credit card or debit card.
Carrie Roberts is a former bookkeeper who's never been late on a rent check her apartment.
But March 1, she had to pay electronically and learned she will have to pay more, no matter which option she chooses.
"It's a mandatory electronic payment system," she said.
Tenants in the complex will have to pay:
- $2.95 a month for direct bank account withdrawal.
- $4.00 to pay in a grocery store.
- 2.95 percent of her monthly rent if she wants to use a debit card or credit card.
"2.95 percent for me is like almost $22 a month," she said. "And I calculated it yearly. That's almost $250 a year to use my debit card."
It's not just one apartment complex doing this. Landlords all over the country are switching to electronic payments.
Its more convenient for the landlord, and there's no risk of bounced checked or missed payments.
Landlord Explains Change
We contacted the complex's owner, where a spokesman told me, " the letter to tenants speaks for itself."
He said the fees go to the banks and processing company -- not the landlord.
But Roberts doesn't want to hand over her bank account number to her landlord.
"To do it electronically, considering all the hacking going around?" she asked.
In addition, she says some tenants don't have bank accounts and use only prepaid debit cards. She says they will be hit hardest.
She thinks it's not fair tenants have to pay more just to make sure landlords don't have to worry about bouncing checks.
However, shortly after our visit, Roberts says her complex manager called her to say she won’t have to pay the extra fee, at least while she is still under her current lease.
So if you are hit with this fee, it can't hurt to complain.