Help me pay my rent
May 13, 2019 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to make an electronic payment of my rent. My landlord's company isn't listed in the bill payment system. He insists this is "not a problem for other tenants." How do I pay my rent?

I recently moved, and my landlord is already very annoyed with me for having this problem. I just want it to go away easily, especially because I don't want to give him any cause to be annoyed by me (and then raise my rent substantially when I re-sign next year as a result).

He gave me the company name, the bank name, the routing number, and account number and asked me to make an ACH payment. The bank says that this would not be an ACH payment; that ACH is only for requesting payment from someone and not for making payments to others. The bank also told me that the way for his company to be added to the bill payment system is for "enough people" to put his information in as someone they want to pay. When I asked what "enough people" was, I was told that "it is done by a system, it's systematic, so we don't know how many people is enough." I will spare you the discussion that I had with the bank representative over the definition of the word "magic" as a result of this, but in any case, this is not super useful for me, either.

I can send him a paper check, which is what I did last month, and he was really annoyed and condescending when I tried to explain the issue to him. I guess I can open a bank account at the same bank he uses (another large international bank) but I'd prefer not to do that; then, I would have to separate my rent out from my other banking (all of my loans, credit cards, and checking are at Chase, in one easy place). I could also try to talk him into contacting Chase to get added to their bill payment system, but there is no information online about how this is done and it is really unclear to me where they are getting the company names to include in their database. They do not allow you to search by anything but the company name to make a bill payment.

Does anyone who knows anything about banking or about interpersonal relationships have any other ideas that I could try? I do not understand why I am having this problem that none of his other tenants seem to have, and I'm very frustrated by the whole thing.
posted by sockermom to Work & Money (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One more detail, we both use major international banks, although mine (Chase) is not the same bank that he uses.
posted by sockermom at 7:58 AM on May 13, 2019

Instead of bill payment, I think you’d set it up as a transfer. You should be able to set it up as an account that you don’t own, which would let you transfer funds to it, but not from it.

That said, when I paid rent electronically through USAA, they just automatically printed a check and mailed it to get there on time.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:00 AM on May 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

Is there any reason you can't do a transfer?
posted by k8t at 8:06 AM on May 13, 2019

My bank has Zelle which it looks like Chase does too, this is how I electronically transfer my rent to my landlord using the bank info he gave me.
posted by bleep at 8:08 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Zelle unfortunately will not work because he only has a personal Zelle account, and not one attached to his business. When I tried to set up a transfer I was told that I could only transfer money between accounts that I owned.
posted by sockermom at 8:17 AM on May 13, 2019

Some landlords will not accept a wire transfer because their bank will charge them a fee.
posted by bdc34 at 8:17 AM on May 13, 2019

I have had a number of tenants who bank with Chase who have major problems using their system to get payments to me. We have solved it through Paypal, paper checks and the horrific Popmoney system (which I do not recommend). Is it just the landlord telling you that no-one else has problems? Can you maybe talk to a neighbor and find out how they resolved it?

Alternately, can you go to a Chase branch office, sit down with an agent and have them resolve the issue for you? Banks can transfer money to each other--they do it constantly all day long--and if you have the relevant information about what account the money needs to go into, every month at the same time, they should be able to set it up for you, although they may not want to and they may decide they get to charge you for it. Banks are the worst.
posted by crush at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

Can you do online banking with your bank account? Chase banks usually let you do fund transfers between different banks if you have all the information. That's is what you want to do transfer funds to the bank account he gave you not pay a bill.
posted by wwax at 8:26 AM on May 13, 2019

Which bank does he use? Another option (though annoying for you) would be walking into one of his bank's branches and just handing them a check to deposit into his account.
posted by pinochiette at 8:27 AM on May 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

Log into the Chase website and go to "Transfer Money" - for "Transfer from", pick the account you're paying rent from, and then for "Transfer to" pick "Add new external account" - this will take you to a different screen where you can enter the routing and account number your landlord gave you. After you save your landlord's account information it will show up as a choice for "Transfer to" the next time you go there. Keep in mind it might take a few days after initiating the transfer for it to actually get to your landlord's account. This is, quite frankly, an insane way for your landlord to accept payments, because the same setup would also allow an unscrupulous tenant to transfer money out of the account as well.

(Edit: I missed that you may have already tried this and received a message that you can only set up transfers between accounts you already own, if that is the case then just ignore me)
posted by jordemort at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

You're paying him; he works for you. You are getting a service from him specifically to make your life easier. He should solve this problem. Have him call Chase or whatever.
posted by amtho at 9:00 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

If there is no legit way to do this don't beat yourself up, just like healthcare this is one of those things that the US does in the weirdest possible way compared to the rest of the world. Personally I find it convenient to have my direct deposit send my rent money (half of rent per paycheck) to a different bank than my spending money is in so I can't be tempted to borrow from myself. Which I mention because if you do wind up setting up an account at his bank it might make your life easier too, not just the landlord's. I'd say if you don't care about resigning the lease then you're only obligated to do what's in the lease but landlords can be a law unto themselves and every last system in the US is complete messed up.
posted by bleep at 9:00 AM on May 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

Normally ACH payments with that information are a business banking feature. Are the other tenants maybe using small business accounts?

I work in digital banking for Not Chase and our consumer bank accounts wouldn't allow this either. Don't do a wire transfer, it will cost you $20 each time. You are correct that in the US there's not an obvious way to do the thing he thinks everyone is doing with a consumer account.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:06 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh hey, apparently Bank of America offers this.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:11 AM on May 13, 2019

Can you ask other tenants how they handle this?
posted by number9dream at 9:42 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

My landlord owns multiple properties all over town, and I don't know who any of his other tenants are. It would not surprise me at all if they were all paying with small business accounts.

I'll just open up a second account for my rent with Bank of America, direct deposit my rent there from my paycheck, and pay that way. I'll let him know that it may take a little while to set up and then I'd like to pay by check this month in case.

Thanks, metafilter.
posted by sockermom at 9:52 AM on May 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

You can also walk into BofA and deposit a check into his account without having an account there. It's not automatic, but my landlady has a BofA account and I don't so I walk into my local branch and just deposit there with the account number and name. That might be easier than sending him a check for you?
posted by Carillon at 10:16 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I was a small-time LL, my tenants had to open a BofA account to pay me. Once they did it was just an easy "transfer". I also remember a previous tenant had trouble with their bank not talking to BofA, so ... yeah.
posted by Dashy at 11:44 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

So - there was no way I could set this up with my current landlord online, through my banks website - same issue, it wasn't listed.

I had to go into a local branch for my bank and have them setup the monthly automatic transfer directly, once my landlord sent me the info.

Heh - the funny thing is, my landlord contacted me just last week, asking for a "mental" refresh on how we got it working, because a new tenant was having the exact same problems you described...
posted by jkaczor at 12:12 PM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I went into three different local Chase branches and no one was able to help me. That's why I asked this question. This is apparently a much more difficult problem than it needs to be.

My landlord doesn't use Bank of America, but from the link posted above it looks like Bank of America is the only bank that will actually do what I'm looking for.
posted by sockermom at 12:23 PM on May 13, 2019

We bank with BOA and I can confirm you can do this with them. We had a regular checking account and I was able to add my landlord’s account, with another bank, as one I could ACH transfer to. If I remember correctly, there was a small fee per transfer. Maybe $3 for 3-4 day transfer and $10 for same day or possibly next day. Was worth it for me to not go and deposit in her account which is what she would have required as she didn’t want to deal with checks. I’m also a landlord and can understand the headache of checks so I got it.
posted by polkadot at 2:22 PM on May 13, 2019

Log into the Chase website and go to "Transfer Money" - for "Transfer from", pick the account you're paying rent from, and then for "Transfer to" pick "Add new external account" - this will take you to a different screen where you can enter the routing and account number your landlord gave you. After you save your landlord's account information it will show up as a choice for "Transfer to" the next time you go there. Keep in mind it might take a few days after initiating the transfer for it to actually get to your landlord's account.

FWIW this is exactly the setup I have to use to do ACH transfers between 3 of my own accounts at different banks, none of which are Chase or BoA. To establish these, there are often Paypal-style "test transfers" that contain a code which are temporarily transferred into the receiving account, so you'd need your landlord's participation. One of my institutions moved the option from the "bill pay" menu to the "transfers" menu within the last year. All are regular personal checking/savings accounts. None charge a fee for it, but it's annoying.

Also, re: paper checks, all of my banks offer "check scan", which lets you scan a personal check with the receiving bank's app on your phone for deposit. This saved my butt a few times, because I live abroad, and when I had to move money from one account to another and the VPN isn't working and the bank's fraud alarm locks me out of my accounts due to detecting different locations, I would write myself a paper check & do it that way (and then call the banks over google voice and spend half the day explaining).

As a freelance translator who subcontracts work to people in different countries, I've dealt with people who "don't want to deal with [payment system]!" and are frustrated that you haven't paid already! What's taking so long! I don't have good advice for dealing with them except to say that it's like dealing with anyone in an emotionally heightened state - sometimes coaching and explaining is necessary, but stay calm, don't lose contact, document your effort & show them, try not to come off condescending, and offer possibilities they maybe haven't considered. One of my US subcontractors (keep in mind, this is abroad) showed me the "check scan" function way back in 2016 when I was trying to pay from my new & still feature-locked US account into his US account, and it blew my mind - I mailed him a US personal check, from Beijing to Shanghai, and that was that. A month later, from that account, I was able to Venmo/PayPal all my other US-based contractors, but still not ACH-transfer to them until the bank decided I wasn't an international terrorism risk or laundering drug money or something. I still can't send international wire transfers from that bank except in person.

You might want to suggest some of these things, like Venmo or check scan, to your landlord. Improving his/her life certainly seems like a good way to ingratiate yourself if you want to re-sign!
posted by saysthis at 6:28 AM on May 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Transferwise has set up a system to allow you to do this online, in case you still want that option (or for anyone else reading this in the future).

Transferwise: Make US Dollar to US Dollar Transfer

They normally specialize in international transfers, but are expanding into domestic transfers specifically to address this gap. You will pay a small fee to do an ACH transfer, but depending on which type of account you're eligible for at Bank of America it will likely be considerably cheaper than opening a new account, as there are no fees just for having the transferwise online account. I use them constantly for international transfers and I find it very simple and much more affordable than my other options.
posted by philotes at 5:38 PM on May 16, 2019

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