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Landlord won't take my money!
October 27, 2006 1:37 PM   Subscribe

My landlord won't take my money. How long can a landlord sit on rent checks?

Our landlord hasn't deposited our checks from the last 2 months, it's almost time to pay again. We're in Washington, 4 people are on the lease and we each pay $450 a month on seperate checks. So that'll be $1350 each floating around/waiting in our bank accounts. Is there a time restraint on how long he can sit on our money?

How long can anyone hold a check for that matter? Does a check ever expire or become invalid?
posted by Sprocket to Work & Money (38 answers total)
 
My landlord usually waits about 2 months to deposit my rent checks, which results in the same situation you're describing.

It never really bothered me, but I often wonder why he doesn't want my money.
posted by dead_ at 1:39 PM on October 27, 2006


If you draw your checks on an interest-bearing account or maybe even an aggressive money-market fund, you might get a nice bottle of wine's worth of interest over the year...
posted by rhizome at 1:45 PM on October 27, 2006


Checks, as a general rule, staledate at 6 months.

I've had landlords that have done that every once in a while, which made me think they were just human and weren't in a bind for money, and probably didn't make it down to the bank on a regular basis - especially when my property was their only rental property.
posted by plaidrabbit at 1:46 PM on October 27, 2006


Call him, remind him. He may be trying to do you a favor.

I've never been a landlord, but I have lent money to friends; if the repyament amount is large-ish (in the hundreds of dollars) and I'm not pressed for cash, I've sat on the check, both to make sure they'd have money in the account and to give them some breathing room.
posted by orthogonality at 1:51 PM on October 27, 2006


Wow, I thought only my landlady did this. She waits 4-5 months, then deposits them all at once. I'm convinced she's doing something shady.

That said, from what I've known/seen (I used to work in accounting), checks are "good" for 6-12 months, depending on the bank. Make sure you keep your checkbook up to date with that you've written!
posted by AlisonM at 1:52 PM on October 27, 2006


Our landlady likes to sit on checks for at least a month. My boyfriend used to pay her in money orders because it irritated him so much. So that's an option for you.

Now, I just pay with a check and remember I always have that much less in my account.
posted by faunafrailty at 2:01 PM on October 27, 2006


I've never been a landlord, but I have lent money to friends; if the repyament amount is large-ish (in the hundreds of dollars) and I'm not pressed for cash, I've sat on the check, both to make sure they'd have money in the account and to give them some breathing room.

Funny, I would cash any check I received from a friend immediately, because I would assume they'd have the money in their account right then, but in a few weeks, months, whatever, might have accidently spent it. I wonder if how you manage your own checkbook determines what you'd do in a situation like this?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:04 PM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


That's bizarre.

You're certainly well within your rights to politely call and ask why your landlord hasn't cashed your check. You can couch it as, "I was checking my records and I noticed that these checks haven't cleared. I wanted to make sure you'd received them and that your bank didn't make some kind of error."
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2006


if the repyament amount is large-ish (in the hundreds of dollars) and I'm not pressed for cash, I've sat on the check, both to make sure they'd have money in the account and to give them some breathing room.

I'm curious why you think this. My assumption when given a check is that the person has the money in their account, not on their person. The longer you wait, and the larger the sum, the greater the odds it won't still be there. Exceptions for checks written at the end of the month, though.
posted by mkultra at 2:08 PM on October 27, 2006


Here's an article about this phenomenon in NYC. It's not totally benign.
posted by cal71 at 2:09 PM on October 27, 2006


My boyfriend used to pay her in money orders because it irritated him so much.

I came up with a similar solution, which has worked out really well: I have two "checking" accounts. First account I use *only* for debit; second account I use *only* for checks. When I have to pay bills, I write checks drawn on the second account, then immediately phone-transfer that much money from my debit account to my checking account. Then I forget about it, and the recipient can take as much time cashing the check as they like. The money's already "gone", as far as my debit account is concerned, so I don't have to worry about remembering to keep money around to cover the checks I've written.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:12 PM on October 27, 2006 [8 favorites]


I too pay in money orders when I'm dealing with people who don't cash checks right away. They're not doing me a favor unless they explicitly say that they have no intention of cashing the check before a certain date (in which case, why even ask for it before that date...). It feels like a weird sort of power trip, like they're just daring me to spend the money so that they next day they can cash the check. With my last landlady, whom I didn't even get along with, she actually kept my last check for over a month after I moved out. It was all a very informal arrangement, and I couldn't stand her, and she knew it, and yet it didn't occur to her to get my money while the getting was good (I waited and let her cash it anyway...but it was a tough decision).
posted by bingo at 2:24 PM on October 27, 2006


I forgot all about this from when I lived in the US. I had a landlord that did the same thing. I noticed it hadn't been cashed so I just called and politely asked if he had gotten the check in his mailbox (I usually dropped it in personally).

I moved to Germany 5 years ago where almost all monthly transactions such as rent and bills are done automatically by electronic transfer. You can set it up once and it transfers on the 1st of the month until you stop it. Of course if your strapped and can't cover it for a few days you can do it manually at your bank's ATM.
posted by chillmost at 2:36 PM on October 27, 2006


When you write a check, immediately record it in your check register and subtract it from your balance, and always use your check register when you want to know how much money you have. Then people holding your checks before depositing them becomes a good thing because you get to collect interest on the money but there's no risk you'll accidentally spend the money and bounce the check.
posted by blm at 2:44 PM on October 27, 2006


blm wrote: When you write a check, immediately record it in your check register and subtract it from your balance, and always use your check register when you want to know how much money you have.

Isn't that just checking account 101 information? Do a lot of people base their information of how much money they have on the checkbook balance, regardless of outstanding debits on said account? If so, wow.
posted by tippiedog at 2:55 PM on October 27, 2006


tippie, yes, a lot of people just check the balance and spend what's there. I had a payroll company accidently double the paycheck deposit to all my employees one day, and at least six of them spent the money before we could get the word out that it was a mistake.
posted by saffry at 3:03 PM on October 27, 2006


Why are you paying your rent with a cheque? (so 1974) Set up an automatic monthly transaction with your bank, so much easier, that way the rent need never be thought about...
posted by Cosine at 3:09 PM on October 27, 2006


Cosine, PLENTY of landlords won't accept that. Hell, my landlord doesn't take checks.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:20 PM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


I used to have a landlord who felt this was the only way he could save money. If he cashed the checks, he'd spend the money, so he just kept collecting the checks, and then around income tax time he'd cash them all to pay his taxes.

It was somewhat annoying to carry forward the balances month after month, but then again, I had a reasonable expectation of a "cushion" in my checking account (at least til around March). Also, he ended up never cashing some of the checks (I assumed he lost them or something), so I came out ahead on the deal.
posted by jasper411 at 3:20 PM on October 27, 2006


Is there a time restraint on how long he can sit on our money?

Most checks are invalid after 6 months. That doesn't mean you wouldn't still owe the money. I assume you'd have a case that you tried to pay him, and he did not accept the money, but just because he doesn't cash it right away, doesn't mean you get to keep it.

I'm curious why you think this. My assumption when given a check is that the person has the money in their account, not on their person. The longer you wait, and the larger the sum, the greater the odds it won't still be there.

I agree. We waited a while after our wedding to cash some checks (not on purpose, just because we were too busy to go to the bank) and we called everyone before hand to make sure it was still okay to cash them a month later.


Why are you paying your rent with a cheque? (so 1974) Set up an automatic monthly transaction with your bank, so much easier, that way the rent need never be thought about...


If they're renting from a single person, I bet he doesn't have a way to handle automatic transactions. Our apartment complex only accepts checks or money orders. No credit card, no transfer.
posted by jesirose at 3:22 PM on October 27, 2006


Trust me, your financial institution can handle it. Single person or not. Call them up, say I would like to transfer $x to such and such account at such and such a bank every 1st of the month.... could not be more simple.

Move the responsibility for those little nagging tasks onto someone else's plate, someone who is paid to handle them, and your life will thank you.
posted by Cosine at 3:31 PM on October 27, 2006


Isn't that just checking account 101 information?

One would think, but judging by some of the comments in this thread, other money management threads I've read here and elsewhere, and people I know, it's either not, or a lot of people stopped after checking account 100...
posted by blm at 3:38 PM on October 27, 2006


Hrm, I've never heard that a check is "invalid" after 6 months. If you found a check from your grandma in the back of your closet when cleaning out your house and cashed it, and got money, your grandma would still be responsible for covering the amount on the check, regardless of how old it is.

This is stated in law: "A bank is under no obligation to a customer having a checking account to pay a check, other than a certified check, which is presented more than 6 months after its date, but it may charge its customer's account for a payment made thereafter in good faith." Uniform Commercial Code, Section 4-404.

My understanding from reading this is that it's up to the check writer's bank whether or not they cash the check. And, well, banks are banks so I would suspect they would probably cash it. If anyone has been in this kind of situation and the bank didn't cash the check, I'd be happy to hear about it.

(I found that legal code by searching google for "personal check expiration date" and coming upon This Google Answers Post.)
posted by sarahnade at 3:42 PM on October 27, 2006


I use my bank's (Wachovia) online bill payment system for everything, and it doesn't matter that my landlord doesn't accept automatic/electronic transfers. The bank just issues an official bank check and mails it to the payee, just as if I would have written the check myself. It's nice, as it always gets sent at the same time each month, without me having to really worry about it. This works for everything, even for things like reimbursing a friend who spotted me cash - I just set him up as a payee and used the online software to send money as if he was a vendor.

About a year ago I was charged a late fee by my landlord, but as it was the banks' fault for not sending the payment out on time (they had some sort of software glitch), Wachovia just went ahead and covered the late fee for me.

This might be a good way of dealing with someone who doesn't cash checks at once. You have the info in your checkbook, sure, but it's also reflected on your online statements, where it will show that there is a pending charge.

That said, though, I still find it odd to sit on so much money for that long. What a weird way to run a business...
posted by gemmy at 4:06 PM on October 27, 2006


It's also a way to gain a bit of extra leverage over the tenant. If the landlord waits to cash a check/cheque (thereby increasing the chances of it bouncing) and it does bounce, they can kick you out at their pleasure, even if you paid "on time". Or at the very least charge extra fees for missing a rent payment.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:11 PM on October 27, 2006


I'm not a renter, not a landlord, but I also sit on checks I receive. Usually for an average of two weeks, but sometimes as long as two months.

I can't tell you exactly why, but it does have to do with the fact that I don't usually need the money immediately (paychecks were the exception before I got direct deposit). It's not an inconvenience since I stop by an ATM every day on my way to work. Usually it's because I forget to put the check in my backpack. Or if I remembered to put it in my backpack then I forget that it's there.

So as someone who does this, my guess would be that if everything else is fine, your landlord just doesn't need the rent money that badly. If the checks are sent to a P.O. box then maybe they don't check it more than once a month (and sometimes will miss a stop). This could be especially true if renting is only something they do on the side.

And yes... my lazy check cashing policy has been know to piss off relatives. :)
posted by sbutler at 4:21 PM on October 27, 2006


Cosine: yeah, not a lot of landlords I know accept online payments/etc. Sure, you can do electronic bill pay, but that still involves a check. I'd be even more leery about that because it's your bank cutting & mailing a check, thus involving the Postal Service. I prefer to drop off my rent checks in person so the landlord/office staff either give me a receipt or mark it as received right away.
When I worked for AT&T Wireless, we had a whole lot of people complaining about auto bill pay. Turns out that some banks (can't recall which ones) were saying "oh, AT&T Wireless is a big customer." and were sending off One Big Check to them once a month instead of a bunch of little payments. As a result, customers thought they were paying their bill on time, but weren't because the bank wasn't passing along the funds in a timely manner.

Our apartment complex lets you pay by auto-debit from checking or a credit card, but they charge an outrageous "convenience fee" for the service. I think it's $25 or $30/mo. Simply dropping off a check is free.
posted by drstein at 5:14 PM on October 27, 2006


Here's a thought: Most corporate checks say something like "not valid after X days/months" over the top of them. It seems like you might be able to do that with your personal checks. Someone shoot me down if this is a bad idea, but can't you write on the check, to the left of the date "this check is void if not cashed within 30 days" or something like that?

(This might just be me taking my legal contracts class too seriously, as people seem to pull stuff like this all the time and courts let them get away with it. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and no, I'm not a lawyer for 3 more years yet :-)
posted by Happydaz at 5:24 PM on October 27, 2006


Happydaz: Doesn't stop the landlord from forgetting to deposit the cheque, and doesn't stop the tenant from owing the rent -- just means you have to keep writing more cheques whenever the landlord forgets.

What about paying the rent in cash and asking for a receipt?
posted by mendel at 5:53 PM on October 27, 2006


I have a 2 family house, and often forget to deposit the rent check promptly. I checked in with the tenants to make sure this doesn't cause them trouble. It's probably severe procrastination.
posted by theora55 at 6:33 PM on October 27, 2006


Isn't that just checking account 101 information?

I'm sorry, but here in the modern world, especially for those of us who came of age at the same time as the debit card, no that doesn't make sense anymore. I don't carry my checkbook around because the only checks I write are for my mortgage & my maintenance. Everything else is cash or debit. And the debit goes through right away. So my bank balance is an easier way to keep track of it. Of course, since I write so few checks, I know when they are outstanding. But there is world of people who don't balance their checkbooks because it doesn't really apply anymore. And people who sit on checks are assholes.
posted by dame at 6:36 PM on October 27, 2006


Use online checking if it really bothers you. Any bank will take the money out of your account, put it in an interest vehicle, and then gain interest on it until the check is cashed. Of course there's no reason you couldn't do this yourself... but there it is.
posted by nixerman at 7:23 PM on October 27, 2006


dame: Notice that I said outstanding debits, not outstanding checks. That was deliberate; checks aren't the only possible outstanding debits.

I didn't 'come of age at the same time as the debit card,' but despite my advanced age--as improbable as it may sound--I live the modern life, too: I don't carry my checkbook with me, I do most transactions as auto debits, pay all recurring bills online, and write very few checks each month (maybe 6-8 for non-recurring bills).

But I still maintain a ledger of transactions (in Quicken) and reconcile that to the banks records every couple of weeks. I just don't have enough faith in my bank and the other institutions with which I do business not to double check everything.
posted by tippiedog at 8:57 PM on October 27, 2006


Speaking as a landlord, holding a check makes zero sense. First rule I learned when I had worked as an apartment manager--deposit rent immedietely.

If I were in your situation, I would set up a separate checking account, for rent only, and write a check out of that account monthly. Just remember to fund the account appropriately.

I have several checking accounts set up for these type of issues. They dont take any time to set up and are of little hassle.
posted by vaportrail at 9:09 PM on October 27, 2006


First thing - I worked at a big chain bank and we weren't allowed to accept checks that were older than 6 months - this was drilled into tellers at training.

Secondly - either get a money order or a cashier's check from the bank for larger amounts so you don't have to worry about all that money floating around nebulously.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 10:38 PM on October 27, 2006


As someone upthread mentioned, if you can do so I suggest setting up all of your monthly bills to be paid automatically via bank transfers it really makes it easier to handle your bills. I haven't recieved or sent an actual check in the last 8 years and I keep track of my money online.
posted by sic at 3:18 AM on October 28, 2006


My landlord gave me her bank account #, I write a check, fill out a deposit slip, bring it to her bank, and deposit it for her. Because she's a landlord, she's obligated to keep our deposit in a separate account (the one we're depositing to... she's also obligated under law to tell us the account number if we ask), so every time I deposit the money, I get a receipt that shows the "updated" amount in the account (she transfers money out to her personal account, or just pays the mortgage from that account, so there's always the amount of our deposit in the account)
posted by hatsix at 9:23 PM on October 28, 2006


Do the checks all get cashed at the same time, or one at a time? Your landlord may be double-dipping by getting some reduced-income benefit, and keeping their income apparently low by sitting on un-cashed checks.
posted by jimfl at 8:56 AM on October 29, 2006


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