A Friday Chat About How We Pay Rent

Everyone’s gotta do it.

Photo: Craig Sunter/Flickr

MEGAN: Once again, we’ve made it through another week. Hello!

NICOLE: Hello! How are you doing this Friday?

MEGAN: Seeing as it’s sunny here and I’m listening to Beyoncé, I’d say pretty good. How about you?

NICOLE: It’s snowing and raining here, which kind of surprised everybody? I guess we weren’t thinking it would feel like winter anymore. Thanks, climate change.

MEGAN: From what my mom has told me, the PNW has received like, way more snow than they usually do! We’ve barely gotten any snow. And what we have has melted pretty much instantly. But snow and rain means…staying inside? That’s nice.

NICOLE: I’m actually planning on going outside and seeing Hidden Figures finally, and then maybe staying inside for the rest of the weekend. TBD. What about you?

MEGAN: Hidden Figures was cute, despite, uh, this. Don’t click that. As for me, after we chat, I am leaving my house and going to the bank to pay my rent, using the method that some people have decried as “insane:” getting a cashier’s check from a bank teller and mailing it to my landlord. It is insane. It works for me.

NICOLE: Two questions: Is your rent not due on the first of the month? And: Why won’t your landlord accept a normal check?

MEGAN: Clever girl. My rent is indeed due on the first of the month, but I have until the fifth of the month to send it in, and I didn’t get the money from my roommates until yesterday AND because I’m a crazy person, I hate using my savings to like, float it, until their Venmo comes through. Also, my landlord would gladly accept a regular check or a paper bag full of $100 bills or whatever, but I refuse to work around the huge chunk of rent money in my bank account. He takes so long.

NICOLE: OMG I remember when I was the person who had to write the big check to my landlord and wait for a bunch of roommates to pay me back. It was THE WORST. Why isn’t there a better way of doing this? It’s terrible from so many perspectives, including the one where usually one roommate is on the lease and the others… aren’t? They’re just living there without any legal protection or any protection for the leased roommate when they decide to move out on two days’ notice???????

Sorry. I have feelings about this.

MEGAN: YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID. I’ve lived in the apartment for the longest and so I am the Person Who Does The Things, like call our super and also pay the rent every month. Our lease is…hmm. It’s around. I think it’s month to month. That’s on my to do list, by the way. “Find the lease.” But yeah, there’s no real good way to pay rent, which is INSANE SINCE SO MANY PEOPLE RENT ESPECIALLY IN NEW YORK FREAKING CITY. Is your landlord a person or a management company? I find that kind of makes a difference in how people pay and when.

NICOLE: My landlord is a person who might be a one-person management company? He handles multiple properties.

MEGAN: What happens if you pay your rent late? My landlord is an old dude who owns funeral homes and a shit ton of real estate in Williamsburg, so he’s a rich old dude. If we pay our rent a day past the fifth, he sends me a letter requesting a fee. Very quaint.

NICOLE: …I’ve never paid my rent late. I’ve been too terrified of what might happen. Right now, I send my landlord a check via my online bank account (which is to say I go online, click “send a check,” and the bank takes care of it), and I have a calendared item to pay rent on the 20th to ensure that it arrives before the first of the next month.

MEGAN: I think I used to do the online send a check thing when I lived in San Francisco, but our landlord there was ALSO crazy, and so was my roommate. Roommate was always late with rent, so I’d be living in mortal fear of bouncing the rent check, and then eventually moved towards the “cashier’s check which is just sending real live money basically in the MAIL” method.

NICOLE: Yeah, that whole thing where you write a big check for rent or for, say, taxes, and then it takes a week or two for your landlord or for the federal government to cash it, and the whole time you’re thinking about all the ways it could go wrong, like maybe you will accidentally buy one tiny thing that pushes you into the red, and your bank will reorder all of your purchases so that it’s your rent or taxes check that bounces instead of the Taco Bell taco or whatever.

Even when I’m nowhere near overdrafting my bank account, I still worry about that.

MEGAN: YEPP. Since I have that weird second checking account that houses all of my money, I paid my taxes out of that last year, because that’s where the money was. I’ve considered seeing if I can somehow get a checkbook attached to that account so I can stop this frantic panic to find a bank within the first five days of the month, but I hate talking to people. And I have to talk to people to get a checkbook. Also, they will likely tell me that I should not have two checking accounts, because who am I?

I live in fear of overdrafting my bank account, but I don’t think I have since college. That’s probably not true, and if my dad reads this, he will text me and remind me that I probably have in the past six years or so, but I think I’m right. (Dad, I’m right.)

NICOLE: My bank account has “overdraft protection,” which essentially means that if I overdraft my checking account, it turns into a credit card. I can go into debt on my checking account up to $500, and pay interest on that. Which I’ve done, a few times, when I didn’t have any savings and did have some freelancing cash flow gaps.

MEGAN: Because I’m avoidant by nature, I always click “GO AWAY” or whatever on that popup that my bank shows me about overdraft protection when I log in. I should maybe stop doing that seeing as that sounds IMMENSELY HELPFUL.

Really, though, the fear about my bank account and rent and my need to pay it via a method that no one else I know does, is that I view that money as a ticking time bomb. If my landlord didn’t deposit like, 2 checks in a row, I’d have almost $8,000 sitting there. It’s not like I’d accidentally buy a luxury vacation to Bali for a month, but just SEEING THAT MONEY in there is bad for my brain. It’s a lie! And I hate lies.

NICOLE: Plus, what if you get robbed, or identity-theft-bank-account-stolen, before those checks get cashed? I always worry about that kind of thing.

MEGAN: Funny story: about five years ago, someone broke into my apartment and stole my laptop, my purse, my sister’s iPod that was actually mine that I had lent her and something else that I can’t remember. They broke into THE ROOM WHERE I WAS SLEEPING and stole the computer from the bedside table that was like, inches from my slumbering form. I am very lucky nothing worse happened, but what DID happen is that they went to the 24-hour Duane Reade down the street and tried to basically empty my bank account out. They did a pretty good job! Rent was due! I had to call my landlord and tell him, and he was very understanding, but when I asked if we could get a deadbolt, he told us it would cost $400 for US to replace the door. (We didn’t do it).

That fear is real, is what I’m saying. Cashier’s checks forever until someone tells me otherwise.

NICOLE: I’ll leave that duty to our commenters. From my perspective, pay rent in whatever way works for you, because most ways of paying rent are in some way convoluted and ridiculous. But all worth it, when you see that money disappear and you know you can stay in your apartment for one month more.

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