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not been put in writing. Both you and your landlord should sign and date all pages separate from the lease agreement. If you have agreements about pets, replacing the carpet, painting the walls, or who pays the utilities, such agreements should all be stated clearly in writing. Anything you want fixed, replaced, or repaired should be requested in writing. It would be wise not to rent from a landlord who will not put the agreement in writing.

RENT AND LATE FEES

A landlord can charge any amount she wishes for rent. There are no limits to increases, as long as the lease is expired (or will soon expire) and a proper notice is given. See "Changing Terms in the Middle or End of a Lease."

Often, your lease will state that rent is due on the first day of the month. Many leases provide a "grace period" in which rent can be paid late without penalty. Always get receipts for payments and keep them as long as you live there, especially if you pay by cash or money order. If a landlord claims she did not receive a money order from you and you do not have a receipt, you can run a "trace" on the money order (to determine who may have cashed it) by contacting the company that issued the money order. If any of the landlord's employees cashed it, you are probably not responsible for that rent payment. It may take several weeks to trace a money order so be sure to start the process quickly. Usually for a fee, a money order company will re-issue a money order that has not been cashed.

A landlord must accept rental payments in the form of cash or a per- sonal check, unless the written lease provides otherwise. If you pay your rent in cash, your landlord must provide you with a written receipt. The landlord must also keep a record of the date and amount of each cash payment. If a landlord fails to provide receipts or keep a record book, you can file suit and may be entitled to a court order that: (1) directs the landlord to comply with the law; (2) awards you the greater of one month's rent or $500 for each violation; and (3) awards you court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.

A landlord can charge a reasonable late fee if you pay rent after the due date in your lease agreement, and if the lease gives notice of the fee. If you do not pay your rent on the due date (or within the grace period), the landlord usually has the discretion to either terminate the lease agreement or accept the rent and the appropriate late fee. If you offer to pay the rent and appropriate late fee and the landlord refuses to accept it, you may still have a chance in court if your lease provides for notice and time within which to cure a violation of your lease. A court may also consider your rent to be paid on time if you have established a clear and undisputed pattern of acceptance of late payment by your landlord. You should argue that if your landlord no longer wished to accept late payments, she should have given you some advance notice. See "Termination for Tenant Breach." If you suspect that your landlord may refuse to accept your rent, be sure to offer the

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