Credit: Oliver Munday/Piece Studio

If you think offering electronic rent payments only helps you and your residents, then you’ve forgotten about Mother Nature. Turns out if 20 percent of the U.S. rent-paying population ditched their checks and paid their rent online, this would conserve roughly 8 million pounds of paper; 140,000 trees; 112 million gallons of water; and 8.25 million gallons of fuel, according to research by Beverly Hills, Calif.-based

“The property management business is in dire need for smarter, more sustainable solutions,” says founder and CEO Kevin Eberly, though he admits that most of his clients are drawn to e-payments more for its resident retention capabilities than its eco-friendliness. “The rental market is really the only industry that still uses the paper check. Online payment is a new concept for them, but it’s growing quickly. A lot of property managers are saying they have to offer this to keep up with the competition.”

Eric Freedman is one of those managers. The principal of Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based third-party management firm Coastline Real Estate Advisors says going paperless is a no-brainer, especially with his portfolio’s heavily-concentrated Gen Yers. “Young people think differently than the people who have been renting units for the last 10 years,” Freedman says. “They have probably never written a check in their lives. My guess is that 85 percent of their purchases are done online.”

So why don’t more multifamily firms jump on the bandwagon? “It’s a sea-change,” says Jason Gardner, vice president of business development at Oakland, Calif.-based electronic rents provider PropertyBridge. “Firms have accepted checks for a long time, and [this] changes the way they do business.” Maybe the prospect of saving 140,000 trees will make the effort worthwhile.