If my rent was stolen from my landlord’s office, am I liable?

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If my rent was stolen from my landlord’s office, am I liable?

About 5 months ago my money orders were stolen from our apartment office site. It was among some other tenants’ rent that was also stolen in the burglary. There is still an ongoing investigation regarding the burglary. I didn’t even know our office had been robbed until my landlord called me around noon and asked me where my rent was. I told her I dropped it in the overnight box around 10 pm on the third of the month. I offered her my money order receipts and she then told me they had been robbed early that morning. I contacted Western Union and complied with their procedures to have my money orders refunded to me. About a month later I received reimbursement for one money order and then a statement saying Ineeded to enclose a processing fee for the other one to be reimbursed, so I did. I made copies of all my paper and correspondence and provided them to my landlord, so she stayed in the know of what was happening. About 2 months later I received a letter from Wester Union stating that one of my money orders had been cashed and I needed to file a forged money order claim. The very next day I had to go to the hospital to have my baby. I called my landlord on the my third hospital stay and informed her of the letter, and she told me I was liable for that rent because it said so in the lease. I had filed a forged money order claim a couple of days after I got out of the hospital and they told me it would take up to 45 days to process my new claim. I informed my landlord. Then 2 weeks ago they called me and said they were going to issue a 3 day pay or vacate and suggested I borrow money from friends as I had informed them I had only saved up enough money for rent/bills to carry me through my maternity leave for when I return to work at the end of this month. I looked through my last lease but never found anything that specified I was liable for stolen rent. I called my landlord and asked her if she could provide me with a copy of my recent lease along with the 3 day pay or vacate as I try and borrow the money. In the meantime this month’s rent was due so from the money I set aside for rent I purchased a money order for this month’s rent and wrote that in the side box were it asks what for. Its been almost 2 weeks since my landlord said she would put the 3 day vacate on my door, and today I came home to find the 3 day pay or vacate without a copy of my recent lease, saying I owe the rent for this month, in the exact amount of the remaining moneys that are still due from the stolen rent.

Asked on August 8, 2011 Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Legally, once the money has been given to the landord, the tenant has fulfilled his or her rent obligations. Your duty is to pay the rent; what happens after that--money used, money stolen, money lost, money deposited, etc.--is of no concern to you, and you are not responsiblefor it.

The issue is proving that the rent was delivered and therefore lost or stolen after you had given it to the landlord. Evidence of the robbery (the police report, etc.) and also evidence that you are complying with the procedures to claim the money as stolen (forged money order claim) will help you establish this case if and when you go to court. Make sure to show up to court, with all your evidence, on the day indicated on the summons (if the landlord goes ahead with eviction); if you fail to show up, you will lose automatically.


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