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A tenant enters into an agreement for a short term lease, let's say 6 months at $3000 a month. The landlord requires payment through an online portal, to which they post the charges every month and the tenant submits a payment. The first month, tenant notices that the charge is only $100. Tenant pays $3000 in good faith, assuming a clerical error that will be corrected. Portal now shows a credit for the tenant in the amount of $2900.

The next month, charges in the portal are again $100. It automatically gets applied to the credit, so the portal now shows a credit to the tenant in the amount of $2800. Tenant emails landlord asking about the online charges, landlord responds that they will look into it and follow up. They never do, tenant moves out at the end of the term with a total of $600 charged against the first payment of $3000.

Is there any law or precedent to suggest something like the tenant does not owe any further payment, it's as though the landlord agreed to the new charge amount, as the landlord knowingly charged only a nominal amount?

Location is in New Jersey, USA.

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    If the Tenant was able to pay $3000 the 1st month despite the online portal only showing $100 due, then what would have prevented the Tenant from continuing to pay $3000 per month for the balance of the lease term (and observing the credit amount rising by a steady $2900 per month)?
    – brhans
    Commented Apr 22 at 18:00
  • AFAIK the tenant owes the landlord, but debts can expire. Another point is what did happen to the $2400 remaining at the payment processor. Did the tenant recover it? It's it available only to the landlord?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Apr 22 at 18:30
  • @brhans fair point, but the tenant could argue that the unexpected behaviour of the system made him cautious before putting more money. That they did warn the landlord would support that POV.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Apr 22 at 18:33

1 Answer 1

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In New-Jersey, The tenant has the sole responsibility to pay the rent amount

A tenant has the responsibility to pay the full amount of rent on time.

As well, a landlord can't force payments to be through electronic means, so a failure to pay rent due to a platform failure would probably not change anything for the tenant.

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  • Even if the landlord isn’t charging the correct amount?
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22 at 15:20
  • @JoeW Almost certainly. This is obviously a mistake in setting up the billing amount, but the contract takes precedence.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 22 at 16:57
  • How is it a mistake in setting up the billing amount of the tenant reaches out to the landlord about the mistake and the landlord responds saying that they will look into it? At that point it seems like the error is entirely on the landlords side.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22 at 17:01
  • @JoeW I am pretty sure you can sue for unpaid rent a long bit after the lease is up, that would be a defense for the tenant, but at the end of the day, What is written (or agreed upon) always takes precendence Commented Apr 22 at 17:11
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    @JoeW The tenant is responsible for paying the amount in full, if the online portal is malfunctioning, then you can mail a check.... Again, it would sure be a plausible defense if that ever went to trial, and I have no idea what would a judge rule Commented Apr 22 at 17:17

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