Well this is awkward (a renting dilemma).

Two days ago our Landlord cashed our rent check for this month, which is actually quite surprising. We’ve rented this place for just over a year now, and he typically takes two to four weeks to deposit our rent. For someone like myself, who obsessively checks his bank account balances every day, this delayed depositing can get quite stressful. When I write a check, I want that money to be taken from me immediately… definitely within the week.

Anyways, as I was going through all our accounts I noticed something didn’t quite seem right. Our checking account balance seemed like it was higher than it should be. A quick investigation revealed a very interesting fact: Our landlord has cashed our rent checks for July and September rent, but never for August. This has never happened to me in all my renting years.

I know we wrote him a check in August. I mean the guy lives directly below us. If he never received that check he would have called, texted, or walked the 30-feet to our front door to let me know. In fact, his wife came over the other day just to visit, and in our 30 minute conversation not a word was spoken of late or missing rent payments.

I mean, we paid the guy. I held up my end of the bargain. I wrote him the check he is entitled to. Is it also my responsibility to walk him to the bank and make him deposit it? If he had lost it, wouldn’t he have said something to me? Maybe he does have the check, but just hasn’t gotten around to cashing it?

Obviously, part of me wants to keep that $1,175 in our account as long as possible (possibly indefinitely if he’s forgotten about it). But the other part of me thinks I need to follow-up with him and see why he cashed July and September’s rent, but not August’s?

This whole situation is just really awkward.

What would you do if your landlord/mortgage holder didn’t cash a housing payment? Would you follow-up and let them know, or does your responsibility end once the check has passed hands?

p.s. I guess this is one of those times I wished I wasn’t so in-tune with our finances. If I never noticed he hadn’t cashed our check I wouldn’t be having this dilemma. Ignorance truly is bliss, eh?

Update: I sent my landlord a text letting him know.

35 thoughts on “Well this is awkward (a renting dilemma).

  1. Interesting question. Arguably, by writing the cheque you’ve made a commitment to make that money available to your landlord – unless there’s a clause on your account or lease that says it must be deposited in a certain time.

    The nice thing to do, I guess, would be to follow up and make sure it’s all good. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your landlords, and they’d probably appreciate the gesture. Maybe they’ve lost the cheque or left it in a drawer somewhere? You could always cancel the old cheque and write them a new one (can’t you? I don’t know, hardly anybody uses cheques any more in Australia)

    So what I’m trying to say, is you could be a tacit jerk and let it slide and hope they don’t try to cash it several months down the track and overdraw your account, or you could check-in with them. That’s how it would go down if it were me, anyway. But, as noted above, we don’t use cheques – just an easy online-banking “Hey what’s up landlord, here’s your cash, boom!” click of the mouse 🙂

  2. Curious. I would definately ask a question as to what is up with that. As much as you would like to get away with it, I know that you know what is the right thing to do 🙂

    Too bad they just don’t give you their checking account to deposit the rent into.

    • I don’t know if I have a moral obligation to follow up with the people who I write checks to and make sure they deposit them. I personally don’t feel like this is a moral issue at all. Now, had I forgotten to write the check, and he never remembered to ask for it, then morals would come in to play since I never made good on my end of the agreement. But I really do think my responsibility ends at writing the check.

      Full disclosure: I texted him this morning letting him know about the hiccup. He said he’d take the check to the bank this week.

      • IMO you have a moral obligation to follow up the moment you realise that he probably made a mistake. I know you already mentioned that you could be blissfully unaware, but you are not 😛 (being aware as undoubtedly saved you a heap more than it has cost you)! – Fair enough if you simply didn’t know, you dont have a ‘follow-up’ responsibility, but given that you realised there was an issue I feel that it is only right to do so (which you have done now anyway).

        Least he could have done was give you half….

  3. If you see him, I’d mention it to him, casually. no big deal. If it was a big business, or my credit card company, there’s no way I’d be hounding them.

    Out of interest, what’s the current rate of return on the money? I can’t imagine it’d be earning you much anyway.

  4. I would mention it to him and ask if there is another way that he can get the money to you. For example, wire transfer (make your rent $20 bucks less for your wire fee and convenience of him not having to deposit it), money order (a pain for you), or do an online bill pay with your bank (the landlord still gets a check but the money comes out of your checking account instantly…so you don’t have to worry about it any more).

  5. Is this a re-tread post? Whether it is or not, I repeat my advice from the last time you brought this up: do it as an online check from your checking account, so the money gets debited instantly.

    Oops. Brandy said the same thing. Good thinking, Brandy.

  6. I agree with Emily. In your mind, the $1,175 should be gone and if you need to mention it to him, maybe he forgot or has it lying on top of the fridge and just needs to deposit it.

  7. The Homer scene is AWESOME, man! Hhahhahaha! Well, I tell ya, honestly, I wouldn’t say anything. It’s your job to give him his check. It’s his job to deposit it. It’s not your job to walk him to the bank, to check his account balance and/or to help him with his finances. I say, keep it,and go about yoru life as usual. If that money is still in your account after a year, I’d feel safe to put it into savings or do something else with it (meaning, I’d leave it in my checking acct for a year just to make sure he didn’t suddenly remember the check and cash it!). But, that’s me, if it makes you feel better, peace of mind is REALLY important, maybe you’d want to tell him? That would take away all question. Or maybe invest that money for a couple months, pull out when you’ve made money off it, and then tell him. ??

  8. I’d definitely talk to him about it. Just so there’s no problems later down the road when he realizes he hasn’t cashed it, and cashes it when you aren’t expecting him to. Just give him a quick call and let him know you noticed it hadn’t been cashed. Who knows…maybe he’ll give you August for free because you were honest with him. 😉 That would be the Christian thing to do, no…?

  9. Hi Ninja,

    This is your friendly landlord reader.

    I typically wait a week or so before depositing my rent checks. I have many tenants like you, obsessively checking their bank accounts. If I take more than a couple of days, they generally will send me a text just to confirm that I received the rent check and asking whether I have deposited it.

    I don’t mind these texts and generally respond to them.

    I have also lost a couple of checks, so it is possible that they just misplaced it and forgot about it. I know this sounds farfetched, and $1100 is a lot of money to most of the world, but to some folks (ahem) it could be a small drop in the bucket and get overlooked.

    Either way, it will haunt you, so a quick text or a post-it on their door or a notebook piece of paper folded in half and put in their mailbox with a short, simple, “just wanted to make sure you had my august rent check, as we were balancing our checkbook and noticed it hadn’t come through our account yet. Thanks, Ninja”

    Keep us updated.

  10. You definitely need to say something just in case you did somehow forget. This is one of those times where your character is determined by how you act when no one is watching.

    I would say say, “hey, I noticed you never cashed our august rent check, i got that to you right?” I don’t think that’s awkward, he would then know you’re an upstanding guy wanting to make sure your obligation was fulfilled.

  11. Whats awkward about saying, “I noticed the checks for July and September cleared, but August still hasn’t been cashed. Would you like me to write another?”

    I personally wouldn’t let it pass, hoping that I can “save” the money down the line. Sounds like you have a decent relationship with a decent landlord. Keep up the civility and trust and chat with them. Its an opportunity to talk about automated payments like others have mentioned. Its awesome knowing that I don’t have to take any action each month to pay all my bills.

  12. This happened to me over the summer! Like you, I obsessively check my bank accounts as well, so I noticed that July’s rent wasn’t taken out. I assumed that they were on vacation, and waited (not very patiently btw 🙂 ) until August’s rent was taken out. I was about to send them a notice when I saw that the July one was cashed a couple days after the August one.

    So I’d wait a few days, but definitely would follow-up. Aren’t checks good for half a year or a year after they are written? Last thing you would want is to have it catch you by surprise in the future! 🙂

  13. I’ve had the same landlord for three years and he’s very absentminded with rent cheques too. He doesn’t live super close but we’re in the same city but he always neglects to cash our cheques or pick up our new ones. So my boyfriend emailed him and asked what the most convenient way to pay him was and the landlord asked for an EFT. My boyfriend’s bank doesn’t charge for this service so instead of me giving HIM a cheque every month and us combining it into his bank account, I just EFT him money and he EFT’s the landlord. Super easy!

  14. Why don’t you pay him with bill pay out of your bank account? Then it comes from your bank account automatically and instantly and he receives funds in the form of a cashier’s check. The technology to prevent these types of things exists, why not use it?

  15. I would definitely tell my landlord, cause I don’t want to count on the cash not coming out, and then have him ask for an extra payment later. Being upfront is my best policy.

  16. If someone *forgets* to cash a rent check (which is presumably fairly significant) then that’s on them.

    But Billpay eliminates Ninja’s problem of sitting there, waiting for the landlord to cash the check and never being sure when it will come out. I love paying via bill-pay because withdrawals are instant and there is a record of the transaction — no need to manually balance your check book and no BS about when the check was or was not issued. It’s really a win-win.

    To the people paying rent via ACH, I will point out that doing that will haunt you when you go to buy a house (if you are getting a mortgage). Just about every lender asks for TWO YEARS of rent payments with receipts/voided checks. ACH transfers are insufficient for this, and you would likely need your landlord in that case to sign an affidavit saying that you paid your rent on time and such. At *best*, this will delay your loan approval by several weeks. At worst, banks won’t accept the affidavit. This is something I recently learned the hard way, so be wary of that. Paying your rent via bill pay with a nice memo that says “RENT PAYMENT” at the bottom solves that problem.

  17. Interesting. My old landlord used to deposit the checks so quickly, he must have sprinted to the bank each month. I would casually say something to him. You’d probably feel pretty bad if he really did lose the check, so it would just give you peace of mind.

  18. First, just FYI, the Uniform Commercial Code states that a bank is not required to honor checks more than 6 months old. Of course, a bank is free to ignore that bit and cash it anyway….it’s just not under any obligation to do so.

    Second, a bit of my own history on this: I got my first place 15 years ago. My father helped me out by paying the deposit and first-month’s rent on the place, while I came up with the rest for utilities and such (thanks Dad!). Nearly a year later, while I’m still living in the same place, my pop calls me up and mentions that they were trying to balance their checkbook, but couldn’t….was coming up with too much money every time. Turns out the property I was living at changed hands during my lease, and those particular checks never got cashed! My father waited until the 12-month mark, then called the bank to cancel the checks (they did it for free due to the circumstances). He tells me they never heard anything about it since then. Weird.

  19. Maybe the cheque that he cashed was actually August’s cheque and he’ll cash September’s in a bit.

    My old landlord used to do the same thing and it really ticked me off. I PAID you, take your money!

  20. Just saw you on the Steve show. You remind me so much of my husband I had to check out your blog. And as you write, yes you become him more and more.
    We are on the other spectrum of this situation. We have a house that we collect rent from. However, we since the home we rent is in a different state from where we reside we have a rental company that we deal with. I would hope if the renters have any concerns, that they would contact the rental company and relay a message back to us.
    Look forward to reading the rest of your blog. By the way, the word ANYWAY doesn’t have an S at the end. 😉

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