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Protecting Your Rental Payment

For many people, their rental or mortgage payment is their highest, or one of their highest, fixed monthly expenses. If, for any reason, a rental payment were to be mishandled or misappropriated and not applied to the rental balance for that month, most of us would have significant problems recouping the cost in enough time to make a timely rental payment. If your rental payment has been stolen, be sure to speak to an experienced attorney about your next steps.

Stolen Rent in the News

Since October 2013, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has been investigating a series of crimes involving rental communities. These crimes were not house thefts or car break-ins; instead, the perpetrators allegedly stole rent payments. For rental communities with dropboxes, the perpetrators allegedly, towards the end of each month, used “long metal rods” with a “sticky material” on them to retrieve the various rental payments. Then, they allegedly altered and deposited the checks into various bank accounts. While this seems like a relatively unsophisticated crime, the perpetrators were allegedly able to alter and deposit “443 money orders and two cashier’s checks totaling $229,000.”

How to Protect Your Rental Payment

While the tenants in this case did not really do anything wrong, their rental payments were not adequately protected. On the other hand, drop boxes are customary rental payment holders and landlords are likely to continue using them. The following is a list of ways you can empower yourself and protect your rental payments.

  1. Reconsider how you pay your rent. There is more security associated with a payment from your bank account. Also, any methods that are easily tracked and potentially cancelled are best. If possible, use checks or electronically pay for your rent. Checks can easily be cashed and electronic transfers can be traced and cancelled.
  2. Consider the location and security of your landlord’s drop box. Before you decide how you want to pay your landlord, check out the drop box.
    1. Start with the box itself. How easy would it be for someone to fish out a payment from the box? Is it easily broken open? Are there any protection features on it? Think about how easy your landlord’s drop box would be to break into and decide your rental payment method based on that.
    2. Think about the location of the box. A simple and less secure drop box is probably okay if it is stored inside an area that has resident only access after office hours. A drop box that is left outside at all hours of day or night is probably not as good of an idea as a more secure drop box, although it may be more convenient. The makeup of the box should correspond with the location; a more secure location could excuse a less sophisticated drop box.
  3. Check-in with your landlord regarding your payment. If you are unable to track the payment of your rent (i.e. you haven’t paid with a check or via wire transfer or credit card), one of the quickest things to do is to get written confirmation from your landlord that rent has been received. If you deposited rent in a drop box, you may want to consider requesting that your landlord provide a receipt for rent that month shortly after payment. In that case, you have confirmation of the safety of your payment each month.

Disputes with a landlord can be frightening for tenants. If you are trying to protect your rights as a tenant in Florida and you need help, let Pike & Lustig, LLP be your partner. Our landlord-tenant attorneys have significant experience with issues that are likely just like yours; contact us immediately.

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