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In response to complaints from tenants that more and more landlords are requiring rental payments be made only online, California lawmakers are considering a bill that may dictate how landlords collect rent.

A growing number of landlords are no longer accepting checks or money orders from tenants, says Sen Ted Lieu. Instead, they have begun to change rental agreements to require tenants ” including the elderly, disabled and poor ” to pay their rent online.

The issue came to light late in 2011 when hundreds of tenants in apartment complexes in Los Angeles objected when the property-management group notified residents of a 300-unit complex that the only way they could soon pay rent was online.

Current law does not specify how rent is to be paid. The new bill revises the law to prohibit landlords from requiring online only rental payments.

Many residents of the rent-controlled complexes are elderly, live on fixed incomes and either have no computer or know little about computers, Lieu said, adding that it was unreasonable to ask renters who may be struggling to make ends meet to invest in a computer, Internet access and related expenses in order to rent a residence.

We applaud Sen. Ted Lieu for introducing this important tenants-rights legislation to protect renters, Larry Gross, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Economic Survival said. We believe this rent-online scheme is just another way to increase rent-controlled rents by evicting long-term, low-rent tenants who just happen to be, for the most part, seniors and the disabled. In other words, this affects those who likely are least able to pay online.

Tenants have also filed a lawsuit against a property management company which sent out notice regarding online payments, claiming that the move violates the city’s rent stabilization laws. The property management company told the L.A. Times that while the majority of their tenants like the online method, the manager was willing to provide an exemption for residents who found the requirement a hardship. A manager group also claims that the requirement was merely an effort to “go green” and to streamline the process of collecting hundreds of rent checks every month, according to the report.

The Senate Bill is slated for a policy committee review in the next month or so.

Senator Lieu chairs the Senate Labor Committee and represents nearly 1 million residents, including those in Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance, as well as portions of Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Pedro.

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