Is it legal for a university to make you pay back a refund check they sent you, if they sent it to you by mistake?

My university sent me 2 refund checks. They said 1 of the checks they sent to me was sent by mistake and now they’re saying that I have to pay it back in order to continue my education. I do not think that their mistake is my fault and I don’t feel that I should have to pay it back.

Asked on October 27, 2011 under Business Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The extra check may not be your fault--that is, no blame or penalties may attach to you, if you did  not cause it to be issued--but that still does not entitle you to keep it. A mistake by another does not give you a right to their money or title to their assets. Consider: if you had accidentally mailed your tuitation check to the wrong person and they were able to cash it, would their mistake allow them to keep the money? Or your accidentally wrote too large a tuition check, could the university keep the extra? Of course not--and similarly, you can't keep the extra just because they made an administrative mistake, because their mistake creates no right in you to that money.


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