If my apartment complex says my money order was stolen out of their drop box, should I still be responsible for paying that month’s rent?

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If my apartment complex says my money order was stolen out of their drop box, should I still be responsible for paying that month’s rent?

I placed my money order in the drop box only to be informed that it, along with several others, was stolen. I showed them my receipt from the money order purchase, the money order stub, and I also paid to receive a copy of the money order from money gram only to find that it had been altered and cashed in another city. I was told that I have to pay rent for next month as well as the month my money order was stolen or they will start the eviction process. Should I be held accountable for that rent due to their negligence?

Asked on January 31, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if you deposited the money in the drop box, you paid your rent and discharged your responsibilities under the lease. What happens to the money after you put it in the drop box the landlord provides for you (or after it's in their hands in any fashion; for example, after you hand it to any employee) is not legally your concern.

Practically though, the story is different: if the landlord wants to take the position that you did not pay and evict you for nonpayment, how will you prove otherwise? The receipt and stub prove only that you purchased a money order--it does not prove that you put it in the drop box. The fact that it was cashed elsewhere may prove that it was stolen, but that does not establish that it was stolen from the dropbox, versus stolen from you before you placed it in the box.

If the landlord chooses to try and evict you, it will have to prove its case in court; you can present your own testimony to the contrary, show the documentation you have, question landlord exmployees about whether anything was stolen, etc. Since the burden of proof is on the landlord, there is a reasonable chance you'll win. Bear in mind, however, that since you do not seem to have any affirmative proof the rent was deposited in the box--there is no evidence of that, other than your testimony--you could potentially lose and be evicted. In the future, try always to give the rent into an employee and get a receipt for payment.


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