What are my rights if I paid my rent with money orders this month but the management company wrote me a note telling me that they lost them?

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What are my rights if I paid my rent with money orders this month but the management company wrote me a note telling me that they lost them?

I need to pay the rent again. I told them that since they lost them they should be responsible but they want me to ask the money order company for a refund which costs a fee per money order and would also take about 60 days and there is no guarantee that they would be refunded. They won’t do anything. I have the emails, scan documents, and stubs. They are sending me different letters asking for the payment to be issued again.

Asked on July 15, 2015 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Legally if the landlord lost them, they are their responsibility: once the tenant has paid the rent, he or she has no responsibility for what happens next, whether they are cashed, deposited, physically stolen, the money embezzled, lost, etc. However, that said, in my experience, a judge would typically expect you to take reasonable steps to prevent the loss of the original money to the landlord, such as going through the money order cancellation process, fill out the cancellation request form,  pay the cancellation fee, ask for a money order refund request, then reissue new ones. If you don't *try* and the landlord brings a legal action, some judges would find you responsible for not taking such straightforward, seemingly reasonable steps, and would find for the landlord.

The landlord, however, should pay the fees/costs to do this, since it was their fault the money orders were lost; they cannot charge you late fees for not having the money already, and they can't evict for nonpayment while you are trying to reissue money orders they lost.

If you can't get the lost money back (e.g. someone else already cashed the money orders), but you have written confirmation from the landlord that they received them & then lost then, you should be in good legal shape and should be able to use that written confirmation in defense to any legal actions (eviction or for rent) by the landlord, since if they were cashed after you gave them to the landlord, that is fully the landlord's responsibility and there is nothing you can do about it.

Next time, I would make sure to keep the original receipt as proof that you did get the money order from the money order issuer. Also, steps like paying with a debit card or credit card instead of cash can make it easier to show proof of payment as well. You can also contact law enforcement if the situation does not improve. These steps can help ensure that you are not a victim of fraud!

Money order payments can be tricky, make sure you are constantly monitoring the money order status, and don't be afraid to contact customer service with any questions.

It is important to know your rights in situations like this. Use our free tool to find a lawyer near you. It's easy, just enter your zip code!


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