CheckFree Holdings Corp. signed an agreement last week to provide bill payment services to theRent.com, an eight-month-old Web service aimed at property managers and owners.

Renters in two apartment complexes in Texas are testing the service, which lets them make monthly deductions of their rent payments through Web sites developed by theRent.com.

Officials of Norcross, Ga.-based CheckFree said they expect to go live with the service at the end of this month.

"We are leveraging the infrastructure and experience already used today in other industries like health and fitness," said Mark S. Johnson, vice president of CheckFree's electronic commerce division. "It is a natural extension into other industries." He noted that large utility companies already accept payment on-line from consumers.

San Diego-based theRent.com says that about 3.2 million of the 23 million rental apartments in the United States are high-end units, 60% of which have access to the Internet.

"We heard from large property owners that residents indicated interest in paying their rent on-line," said Amy Glass, vice president of business development with theRent.com.

At the same time, she said, property managers recognized the efficiency of collecting rent on-line. They can expect fewer late payments and bounced checks and will no longer have to handle checks physically. Funds from on-line payment transactions, which are received within 48 hours, are automatically posted to an on-line bookkeeping system.

Besides facilitating rent payments, privately held theRent.com helps property owners and managers create Web venues for their residential communities.

The sites can offer community classified ads, newsletters, surveys from the property managers, work orders for superintendents, and other content.

Jupiter Communications, an Internet research firm based in New York, says the average U.S. household receives about four monthly bills on-line and will be able to receive eight electronically, or 65% of its monthly bills, by 2002.

Rajeev Agarwal, a senior analyst with the Tower Group research firm in Needham, Mass., said luxury apartment complexes will probably be the first to offer on-line rent payment, because their residents tend to be young professionals more inclined to use new technology.

Mr. Agarwal recommends that management companies offer rent discounts to spur adoption of on-line payment.

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