A friend of mine owns an apartment complex in NJ (USA) with multiple rentable units and is having difficulty with a particular tenant who insists on paying his rent in coins (pennies, nickels and dimes - but mostly pennies).

I was asked to provide my two cents on the matter. My quandary is as follows:

Generally a business is under no obligation to accept pennies as a form of payment.

Department of the Treasury states that:

no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services.

However, it is unclear how this concept applies to a situation where a tenant is using pennies to pay for his rent and the landlord is refusing to accept pennies as a form of payment.

The lease between the landlord and tenant does not stipulate that the tenant must pay using a specific form of money. However, it does allow the landlord to evict if the tenant does not pay the rent within 60 days after it is due.

If the tenant offers to pay rent in pennies & the landlord refuses to accept payment, does that mean that the tenant is in violation of the lease agreement which states that the tenant can be evicted if "he does not pay rent within 60 days after it is due"? In other words, while I understand the landlord has a right to reject the rent, the tenant may have fulfilled his obligation as it relates to the terms of the lease as soon as he offered to pay rent?

Additionally, the tenant could argue that if he pays after the due date it is like a debt which can be paid off in any form. Since rent is due at the beginning of each month, if the tenant pays his rent several days after the rent is due, the payment is now considered payment for a debt which would require the landlord to accept it in any form?

Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, states:

United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts.

Who has the upper hand in this case?

2 Answers 2


What does the contract say?

I write that so often I should get a stamp made.

If the contract is silent, then it is implied that payment in US currency is acceptable, as is any other method of payment the parties agree to. As you have correctly quoted, there is no limit to the number of US coins that are valid for payments, unlike in many other jurisdictions where there is such a limit.

Accept the coins, make the tenant wait while you count them one by one and then give them a receipt. Oh, and change your lease when you can to nominate sensible forms of payment like electronic transfer.

  • That may still not work if the tenant just waits until after the due date. At that point, the payment becomes a debt and can be paid by any legal tender notwithstanding any contract. Furthermore, in some jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, tenants cannot generally be evicted for late payment as long as they pay within 30 days. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 15:11
  • Updating my previous comment, since we now have a germane federal ruling on the topic of settling debts with pennies. In DOL v. 811 Autoworks (incorrectly captioned on Scribd as DOL v. A OK Walker Autoworks), a federal judge in the Northern District of Georgia has ruled in June 2023 that it was not acceptable for the defendant to dump a pile of pennies in a former employees driveway by way of a (months-late) final paycheck. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 16:40

In : Yes, paying in pennies can get you evicted for nonpayment

Germany has a law that specifically says, you can only pay with up to 50 coins. Every other payment can be refused and you still owe the amount. As you didn't pay, you owe your rent, and with enough rent due, eviction is possible. The landlord also might argue that the attempt to pay in pennies indicates that the tenant doesn't want to pay without a valid reason and thus get an extraordinary cancellation of contract and eviction.

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