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“How long can our landlord hold onto our rent check?”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Erin

“Dear PoPville,

I have a question/issue regarding rent checks that I’m hoping others can weigh in on – either with any action we can take or with how they may have handled a similar issue.

My boyfriend and I have lived in a small apartment building in NW for going on four years now. It’s a good location for us and has what we need with no-frills which is totally fine with us.

Our issue over the last year and a half has been our landlord. Our building is owned by a small rental company/individual who still uses a dropoff/pickup method of paying rent by physical check every month. The problem is that our landlord will pick up the rent checks by the 5th of each month and then not cash them for sometimes (conservatively) 3-4 weeks at a time. We’ve gotten used to that quirk but what happened this month, and is not the first time, is the landlord cashed both the rent checks for two consecutive months on the same day. The first check was written over seven weeks ago, and the second one over three.

Is there any recourse for us to try and stop our landlord from doing this or is the company allowed to hold onto checks for that long, indefinitely, etc?

The stressful part for us is not that we can’t pay it. It’s that we either have to keep a large amount of money in one account (which I don’t like to do in case my card number/card is ever compromised) or our landlord forces us to get a certified check with a penalty fee attached to it if the rent check bounces.

The first time this happened I blamed us because as tenants we should be prepared for them to cash the checks at any time. But now that it has happened again it almost feels like the rental company knows they can penalize us, and other tenants who may be caught off guard by a $2-4k transaction coming out of their accounts at random times each month, and then make additional money off the fee they assess. Especially because the company has also tried to pin appliance malfunction/repair on us and others in the building, before relenting and paying for it, but not without what feels like some scare tactics.

I know we could move, but that also has its own fees and costs associated with it, and aside from the management, we really do like our little home and community! Any help would be appreciated.”

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