Security check bounced ... I screwed up!

14 Replies

Hey BP,

So like the title says, I screwed up!
Okay, story time.

I rented my place to three tenants that met each other online. I did a background and credit check on all of them and it looked good.

I requested a cashier's check or cash for the first month's rent / security deposit due at the signing. Two of the tenants had a cashier's check and one brought a personal check. 

The person with the check noted the reason for the check and not a money order was that they were a little short this month due to the double rent payment (their current place plus my apartment). They asked that I cash this check in a week's time so that they can get paid first. 

I gave them the benefit of the doubt (mistake) and agreed. The check bounced.

The move-in date is tomorrow and they haven't moved in yet.
Now, I would like to think it was an honest mistake and everything will be resolved but I have contacted the tenant and they haven't reached back out to me (granted its only been 7 hours).

What are my options here?
Can I prevent them from moving in at this point unless a payment is presented?

Thank you!

PS.  The tenant reached out to me two days ago asking me if their check has cleared. My bank account showed a credit for the check's amount so I said that 'it looks like it did'. The day after, my bank recorded it as a bounced check.

I'm sorry this happened to you, but as you said, lesson learned :) But no cash, no keys, no exceptions, even for the other two tenants.

Hi George -- You should have one lease and one rent check.  They haven't moved in yet so no harm done re security they will just need to bring that before they move in.  Not sure if you already had a lease signing but if not . . . make it clear that you want rent paid in full, the roommates can figure out how best to handle it.  I e-mail rent receipts so while I get rent from a single person, I e-mail the receipt to all of the roommates.  BTW, if one of the roommates move, you will want to make it clear that any new roommate will need to be vetted by you before move in.  

Best, Teresa

Require cashier's check or money order before any keys are exchanged or any lease signed.

Sorry it happened to you.  we all get burnt every once in awhile, hence we need to learn from it.  Establish your rule and stick with.  They haven't moved in, so notify them all that the check bounced and therefore they must make good on the bounced check and return item fee for the check before they can move it.

Like others have said. Cash or money orders on the first go round.

I did that this year and I definitely know better. I was working on my next home and with a kid and wife on opposite schedules at work my mind was everywhere else. It sucks and then IDK about your bank but Chase bank charged me a butt load of charges on the bounced check. I was so mad and O my Gosh I am currently evicting them! My first eviction in 5 years all because I had a moment of idiocracy...

I'm waiting for some sound advice on what he should do right now, with a tenant officially on lease, having keys, who hasn't paid move in costs yet...

Tell the roommates to pick up the slack or find another home. Let them collect from their deadbeat roommate. 

Of course, this is just the first of many adventures in getting paid that you will experience with this individual :)

Originally posted by @Steve Babiak :

Of course, this is just the first of many adventures in getting paid that you will experience with this individual :)

 Yup, Steve speaks truth. 

Originally posted by @Max Tanenbaum :

I'm waiting for some sound advice on what he should do right now, with a tenant officially on lease, having keys, who hasn't paid move in costs yet...

 If you allowed them to move in, sign lease and gave keys but did not collect the money at move in time, typically you will have to send a Notice to Quit and proceed through the eviction process to remove them.

In which case, is definitely the fault of the landlord for not collecting payment upfront when the lease and keys were exchanged.

Originally posted by @George P. :

Hey BP,

So like the title says, I screwed up!
Okay, story time.

I rented my place to three tenants that met each other online. I did a background and credit check on all of them and it looked good.

I requested a cashier's check or cash for the first month's rent / security deposit due at the signing. Two of the tenants had a cashier's check and one brought a personal check. 

The person with the check noted the reason for the check and not a money order was that they were a little short this month due to the double rent payment (their current place plus my apartment). They asked that I cash this check in a week's time so that they can get paid first. 

I gave them the benefit of the doubt (mistake) and agreed. The check bounced.

The move-in date is tomorrow and they haven't moved in yet.
Now, I would like to think it was an honest mistake and everything will be resolved but I have contacted the tenant and they haven't reached back out to me (granted its only been 7 hours).

What are my options here?
Can I prevent them from moving in at this point unless a payment is presented?

Thank you!

PS.  The tenant reached out to me two days ago asking me if their check has cleared. My bank account showed a credit for the check's amount so I said that 'it looks like it did'. The day after, my bank recorded it as a bounced check.

 Does the lease say anything about either party being able to void the lease prior to possession? That may be your way out. Certainly not speaking as an attorney, but what if you tell this person they can't move in? Do you think they'll know enough about the law to challenge you? Maybe someone else can chime in if stating something like that is illegal.

Also, for personal checks of lesser amounts (under a couple thousand for most banks), go to the bank direct and try to cash it. Most, like Chase, will charge a nominal fee to do so (and try to pressure you to open an account), but for me its worth it to know the check is good. If its not, they won't tell you why, but they will at least tell you it can't be cashed and to contact the issuer for the reason. Otherwise, don't accept personal checks.

As stated, rent to all jointly and severally, and accept only one check.

I do what @Teresa F. does with roommates, and even married couples - one point of contact for the auto-debit of the rent, for return of the security deposit and for all service calls. You don't want to be chasing multiple people for rent.

Hey, thanks for all of the responses and advice.

I allow my tenants to have 3 different checks as long as they are sent together in a single envelope. My tenants are usually grad/post grad students or young professionals just out of college (its a college town), so it makes it easier on them since they don't have joint finances. It has worked very well so far.

The tenant got into contact with me and apologized a bunch of times and told me that this has never happened before etc etc (which i want to believe because of the excellent credit).

I asked that they give me a cashier's check or cash tomorrow. 

Let's see how that goes.

My lease says lease is only valid upon receipt of payment. They didn't make payment so there is no valid lease (hopefully). How does your lease read?

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