Lemme aloooone!
October 8, 2009 9:51 AM   Subscribe

My apartment management has started to drive me nuts. For a month now they've been claiming that my August check has bounced - except it very clearly hasn't, with bank statements shown to them to back it up. Yesterday, I was told that I'm still on their late list for payments. Argh! How the bloody hell do I make this go away? It's ridiculous!

I send every check using certified mail, so I know exactly when the company receives it. First week of August, they got the check and my bank processed it and withdrew the rent amount from my checking account. It was all standard, I kept track as I always do, and thought nothing of it.

Then on the 11th of September, a whole month later, I get a letter stating that this particular (numbered) check bounced. Impossible, right? It was already processed a month ago. I print statements, that very check as scanned by the bank, etc. and bring it to my manager, who lives within the building. She looks it over, agrees it makes no sense and promises to talk to the company on my behalf.

And then we go in circles that have not yet broken. They say the check was returned, I say the evidence to the contrary is conclusive, they tell me otherwise, on and on and on. I really can't deal with this anymore, because it is so senseless. I have never had bounced check fees on my account, I have never put a stop payment on a check, and I just don't know what else to do.

What would be the best next step, to make them understand what I'm telling them? I'm flying out of the country on Saturday, for a week, and the fact that this hasn't gone away yet is maddening.

(From southern California.)
posted by Tequila Mockingbird to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe skip the manager, and send copies of all your evidence via certified letter to the company directly?
posted by HopperFan at 10:03 AM on October 8, 2009

What are they threatening to DO about it? I don't really know what I'm talking about, but from advice on similar situations here, it seems like the thing to do is draft a certified letter stating your case, attaching all relevant documentation, and asking that they either send you (or, probably, your lawyer if you have one, though I'm not as lawyer-up happy as many people on this board) documentation of their problem by such-and-such a date or remove you from their list of late payments.
posted by brainmouse at 10:03 AM on October 8, 2009

Um. I'd ask the management company "What (physical, printed) proof do you have the check hasn't cleared?" and "What proof can I give you that it has?"

If they can give you some sort of statement from their bank indicating the check hasn't cleared I'd then take that back to your bank to see if they have something different.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:05 AM on October 8, 2009

Do they have the paperwork that says the check bounced?
posted by notsnot at 10:05 AM on October 8, 2009

Oh yeah and start documenting all correspondence.

Do it over email as much as possible.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:06 AM on October 8, 2009

If your check cleared, your bank has it, and it's cancelled. My bank scans all checks and makes the images accessible via my online banking site. When there's a dispute, I can show that the check was marked as cleared by the receiving bank and cancelled by my bank (thus reflecting that funds were paid). If the check bounced, the cancelled check will show "NSF". See if you can get it online. If not, have your bank fax the cancelled check to the apt management. Once you do that, the burden of proof is theirs.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:10 AM on October 8, 2009

You need to get them to explain why they believe that check bounced. They must have a specific data point, provided by some link in the chain between their office, their bank, and your bank, which is causing them to take this position.

You have produced paperwork showing that the check was successfully drawn from your account, force them to show paperwork showing that the check was returned NSF. In my experience in the US, this means they are in possession of the check itself, with the NSF stamp upon it (though recent changes in check processing may have eliminated that bit). If they are unable to produce anything to show they are right but still insist that it bounced, then you may need the services of a lawyer to get them to shut up about it.

If they DO produce paperwork, it will probably clarify where the confusion lies: You will be able to identify (hopefully) the discrepancy that led to this confusion and force a conversation between your bank and their bank about where your August rent money actually is.

You may also wish to speak to a manager or personal banker at your bank for assistance in dealing with this situation.

There are also numerous Askme threads detailing the resources available to you as a CA renter in dealing with just this sort of shenannigans, should you decide your landlords are being deliberately obtuse in a bid to obtain double payment or otherwise covering up a scewup on their part.

At all times conduct yourself with patience and civility, even though they may be acting stupidly. Good luck.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:16 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: HopperFan has it. Everything needs to be done in writing. You should write a cover letter explaining your side of the story, include any documentation you can get from your bank (e.g., images of the cleared check, copy of your statement, etc.), and send that via certified mail to the management company. State that unless they reply to you in writing within 30 days with contradictory evidence, you will consider the matter resolved. Talking to people, whether in person or on the phone, is not sufficient.
posted by Nothlit at 10:23 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Might help: Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court in California. Usually it's landlords taking tenants to court... but I'm sure it goes both ways. Sue to make them desist, to ensure they don't report bad credit, time and expense, etc.
posted by ecorrocio at 10:25 AM on October 8, 2009

Sue to make them desist, to ensure they don't report bad credit, time and expense, etc.

Careful. No small claims court that I'm aware of will let you do any of these except maybe recover your expenses. You'd need to go to a "real" court that could issue an injunction. Your link agrees with me.

Anyway I agree with the Nothlit. I am not your lawyer, etc.
posted by exogenous at 11:39 AM on October 8, 2009

Something very similar happened to me a couple of years ago. Long story short, Landlord's bank f'ed up and somehow presented the same rent check for payment to my bank twice.

It cleared the first time, bounced the second (I only keep enough funds in my checking account to cover the checks I actually write). The landlord looked right past the part where they got paid the first time and focused on the 2nd bounce.

It started out with discussions and ended up with me writing them a letter with copies of the paid check, my statement for the period and the contact information for my bank's branch manager to verify that the check was indeed paid in full the first time.

I demanded a letter from them in return saying the rent was paid in full, no fees or penalties were to be assessed and that I was not at fault. I did get the letter from them and keep it on file in case the issue ever came up again or if it ever appeared on my credit report.
posted by de void at 12:25 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I had a situation come up like this once. We went through several rounds of documentation and counter-documentation until eventually noticing that the check that cleared and the check that bounced were not actually the same. Somehow one ended up at the wrong bank. How that happened, I dunno. But I pointed out the weirdness to my bank, and they got all the funds to the right place quickly. Problem solved. Lesson learned: look really carefully at those scans of the check. There's a lot of into there about what hands the check has formally passed through.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:05 PM on October 8, 2009

I was going to suggest that something similar to de void happened. Especially if the company does "remote deposit". It's absurdly easy for companies to mess up how they scan their deposit checks and end up sending a check out multiple times, often to completely wrong accounts/banks. And of course the tellers at banks mess up too.

Let's say the scanning machine jams on your check. It accidentally reads your check, but with the aba/routing number of another renter's check that was behind it. Your check image goes to the wrong bank and is promptly returned by said bank. Meanwhile, whoever did the scanning knows that they're off $xxx somewhere, thinks your check didn't scan, and runs it through again. Maybe skipping your neighbors jammed check, which was for the same amount. So your landlord deposit balances, and they don't even realize their bank is trying to debit you twice and not someone else.

You need to get them to cough up a copy of the check they say was returned. It will have little numbers below the image of the check and on the back that will say where that check was routed to. It's possible your bank never even saw it. Meanwhile, make sure the copy you have of your cleared check has those routing numbers on it too. If your copy doesn't have printing on the back, then get one from your bank that shows the endorsement. If there is no endorsement, then that probably means a jam like I described above happened.

Even if the endorsement is missing, your bank should be able to get you the ABA/routing number of the "Bank of First Deposit" which will help prove that this check was deposited at your landlord's bank. If you have a good relationship with the people at your bank, you might be able to get them to help you with this. The could cut past the landlord and talk directly to the depositing bank about the error.
posted by saffry at 3:32 PM on October 8, 2009

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