When you operate a business that earns income from collecting rent on residential, commercial or any other type of property, financial accounting principles require that you account for each rent payment the business receives or expects to receive. An important account you must maintain is a rent receivable or accrued rent account. Both accounts are identical and report the same balances; the only difference is the name.

Accrual Financial Accounting

Most businesses that account for revenue and expenses in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) use an accrual basis of accounting. Accrual accounting employs two core principles for every account you maintain on the company’s books. These two principles require that you recognize income on your financial statements in the period you earn it, meaning you satisfy your side of the transaction, and when the income is realizable. Realizable indicates that you expect to receive a cash payment in the future for the income you earn. To be realizable, the payment cannot be in dispute.

Accruing Rental Income

Setting up receivable accounts is an integral component of using an accrual method of accounting. When you receive rental income throughout the year, financial accounting principles require that you report the income at the time the tenant becomes legally liable for the rent payment, even if you receive payment at a later date. In a rental property situation, you earn the rental income on each date that the lease agreement requires the tenant to make payment. For example, if you require tenants to make rent payments on the first of each month, you must increase the rent receivable or accrued rent account to reflect the payment you expect to receive from the tenant.

Rent Receivable Entries

To increase or decrease a rent receivable account balance, it’s always necessary to post journal entries to your company’s general ledger. Since the receivable is an asset to the company, a debit entry will increase its balance, while a credit entry will decrease it. For example, suppose a tenant makes monthly rental payments of $800 at the beginning of each month. On April 1, you will post a debit entry to the rent receivable account for $800 and post a corresponding credit entry to the rental revenue account for the same amount. However, once you receive the rental payment, you decrease the rent receivable account with an $800 credit entry and post a debit entry for the same amount to the company’s cash account.

Financial Statement Implications

At the end of your fiscal year, you will prepare various types of financial statements, such as a balance sheet and income statement. The income statement will reflect the total of all journal entries you make to the rental revenue account for accrued rent. This income statement doesn’t change once the rent accrual occurs, irrespective of the fiscal year you actually receive the payment. Moreover, the balance sheet will report the total balance of the outstanding rent receivables account as of the close of the fiscal year as a company asset.