Landlord Cancels Deposit Check, Makes Other Checks Bounce, Sucks

For a tenant, it sometimes feels like there are two kinds of landlords: bad and worse. William tangled with one of the latter, who put a stop payment on his deposit payment, citing the need to pay to clean the room and other
Thanks to this, several of his checks bounced and he got lots of insufficient fund fees.

ve heard, and experienced, landlords taking out exorbitant cleaning fees
made all the more teeth-gnashing by the apartment being filthy when we moved in
but this is the first we
ve ever heard of a landlord cancelling the check AFTER it
s been issued.

What should William do…?

First we advise checking his lease to see what it says about deposit remittance. Then, take a gander at the SoCal renter code. Some states basically require you to take pictures of the apartment before moving in, otherwise you
re screwed and whatever the landlord says, goes, along with your deposit. We, and William, are wondering though that if cancelling the check moves the offense from simply gouging to something illegal.

We also think he may just be screwed and this is why you should never give your landlord your last month’s rent.

Anyone else know better than us? The full text of his letter follows.

Dear Consumerist,

I live in Southern California, and I received a letter today from my bank (BofA), telling me that a stop payment was issued on my return deposit from my previous landlady. Because of this, several of my checks bounced, and I got slammed with insufficient fund fees.

She gave me my check on Feb 22, and I deposited it the next day, Feb 23. And today, I get a letter in the mail telling me a stop payment was issued, and the amount of the check was debited from my account, ALONG WITH A $5 service fee!!!

The bank was “nice” enough to tell me that the stop payment was issued on Feb 23 (the day AFTER she gave me my check), but the debit didn’t happen until two days ago (March 1), causing all sorts of wonderful problems with my bills.

Upon calling my landlady, she said that she never performed a stop payment. Then, she started saying things like how she needed to pay to clean the room I rented, and that there were issues. But, I had officially left in the middle of January, and even when I received my return deposit check on Feb 22, there wasn’t a peep about any of these “problems.”

Being the trusting type, I went to the branch, and asked them who had the power to stop payments. Only the person in charge of the account, or someone with their power of attorney. Hmmmmmm…..

I’m afraid that she’s not going to give me my money back, because of all these “issues” that just happened to come up in the last week (the room was not left “clean” etc.,.) Shouldn’t she have told me that BEFORE giving me my check, instead of just taking it out? Isn’t that sort of illegal (Fraud?) Is there anything I can do about it? What about these godawful insufficient funds fees and late fees? Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Hope the fellow Consumerist community can help a guy out.


William D.