Is my daughter legally responsible for paying rent a second timeif her first paymentwas stolen from the complex’s drop box?

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Is my daughter legally responsible for paying rent a second timeif her first paymentwas stolen from the complex’s drop box?

My daughter paid her January rent to her apartment complex by money order. She put the money order in the drop box provided by the complex for the purpose of allowing tenants to make rent payments. The drop box was robbed and her money order was cashed by the thief, who was later apprehended and arrested. Although my daughter had the carbon copy of the money order and reported the theft, both the issuer and the bank that cashed it have failed to compensate her. I’m not sure what their policies are regarding such an incident. However, the apartment complex is pressuring her to pay the January rent. Is she legally responsible for paying it again since she paid on time and in a manner acceptable to the apartment complex and since the money order was in their possession in their drop box when it was stolen?

Asked on April 12, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, she is responsible for the rent UNLESS she can prove that either (1) a company employee stole it; or (2) prove that  it was placed into the lockbox then stolen. Merely being able to prove the money order was issued and then cashed by another person is not enough, since that doesn't prove that the company was reponsible for it and its loss. Unless the rent was stolen by a company employee or through company negligence, the landlord can insist on the rent--after all, for example, if it was stolen from her purse after she bought it, she'd clearly have to find and pay new rent money.

So unless your daughter can show that the risk of loss had passed to the landlord (i.e. it was in their hands at the time) or the landlord caused the loss, they can hold her responsible for the rent. Since nonpayment of rent can result in eviction, she may wish to consider re-paying the rent, then looking to prove the landlord's responsibility and seek reimbursement (or a credit vs. future rent).


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