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I got a letter from my landlord saying I missed 3 month rent. The letter said if I do not pay those 3 month rent in cash, she will take me to the court and evict me. I paid rent every month and never missed so I am very confused. I paid with personal check every month and all checks are already cashed by my landlord. I have copy of cancelled check from my bank. Each check have information of my name, landlord’s name, date, amount I paid, what is for, and landlord’s sigh in the back of check. My landlord said I have no receipt, therefore no proof of payment. What should I do? Cancelled check can be proof for payment?

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    Please specify the country/state. It helps to get a more accurate answer. – mhoran_psprep Apr 2 at 10:57
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    In general YES, Cancelled check can be proof for payment. – Fattie Apr 2 at 10:59
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    does the back of the check, where they signed and the bank information is entered look different. Is the bank name different, or the account number different? Do you pay the landlord, or do you pay a property manager? – mhoran_psprep Apr 2 at 12:27
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    Be careful, this could also be a scam - the letter might be from someone else claiming to be your landlord, and trying to get you to give him cash. Do not pay anyone cash – Aganju Apr 2 at 15:26
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    @Aganju: not only that, but in my experience most reputable landlords even refuse to be paid in cash, so a letter demanding cash is ultra-suspicious. – whatsisname Apr 2 at 19:05
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I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say, based on the facts you presented, that the letter didn't come from your landlord, and someone else is trying to scam you!

Here's why:

  1. As you pointed out, you have proof that all of the checks were deposited, and your bank can verify it.
  2. After the first month your landlord would have contacted you if you hadn't paid your rent.
  3. You received a letter instead of a phone call, email, or text, which is much easier.
  4. The letter requested cash. That's weird. Typically if you are behind on rent the ask would be for a money order or bank check.

I would call your landlord ASAP and confirm if the letter is really from her.

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    @SRiverNet: I think we all know that means "a letter purporting to be from the landlord" – Ben Voigt Apr 2 at 21:33
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    I think it's evident the landlord, who may be a property manager and NOT the actual owner, did something with tenant rent money and is now trying to shake them down to make up for it. When was the last time you heard of ANY landlord letting you go three months without paying before they say something???? I don't know of any who would let you get past the end of the month due without a nasty letter, and that's stretching it. Most landlords will put a notice on your door (or mail you one) within days of being past due. Smells VERY fishy to me, but I doubt it's a third party based on the OP. – RiverNet Apr 2 at 21:34
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    @SRiverNet The sensationalism of such an egregious claim is exactly why it is effective as a spam/phishing technique. The strong emotions induced by the letter can easily turn off the critical reasoning of the victim, regardless of the victim's IQ level. – jpaugh Apr 2 at 21:44
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    @SRiverNet if you're referring to "My landlord said ...", it can just as well mean "my landlord stated in the letter", so it doesn't necessarily mean the OP talked to anyone – njzk2 Apr 2 at 21:49
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    Another possibility comes to mind if they are a property manager: This may be a case of embezzlement--someone made off with the money and deleted the record of payment so the books balance. – Loren Pechtel Apr 4 at 1:09
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(ANSWER ASSUMES QUESTION IS U.S. BASED)

--- UPDATE ---

IN RESPONSE TO DISCUSSIONS IN THE THREAD, it would be helpful if everyone knew whether you've actually talked to your landlady, or is your only communication the letter you say you received? It's also fair to ask, have you (or any other tenant you're aware of) had an issue with your landlady in the past about rent payments - is this out of character for her (assuming you've lived there long enough to have an opinion)?

That being said... A cancelled check PLUS a copy of your banks statements showing the check being posted against your account is more than enough proof to establish that you paid your rent.

Further, why did the landlord wait for THREE MONTHS to say anything? Something's fishy here, and I wonder if your landlord was even authorized to be the one to cash your checks. Are they just a manager of the property, or do they own it? If they're just a manager then I would contact the property owner(s) and make them aware of the situation to see what they can and will do.

I have a question for you here as well - if you're in the U.S., are you aware that your landlord may not be able to evict you anyway due to the moratorium on evictions which was recently extended to the end of June?

It doesn't mean your landlord has valid grounds to evict anyway since you can easily establish a record of payment. And it should also be a lesson to people who are foolish enough to pay rent with cash - no paper equals no proof.

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    I had (in a roommate situation) a landlord who gave me signed receipts for cash payments, but then came into my room and stole the receipts! Sometimes even paper equals no proof... (You can say I should have made an extra copy, but would you really have foreseen that?) – user253751 Apr 2 at 17:16
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    Excellent inclusion with the bank statements to demonstrate that the querent provided valid checks. – Pyrotechnical Apr 2 at 19:42
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    @Pyrotechnical: upticked for "querent". I call for all future uses of "OP" to be replaced with "querent". – A. I. Breveleri Apr 2 at 20:06
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    Note that the eviction moratorium only applies if the failure to pay rent is due to loss of income or extraordinary medical expenses, and you would become homeless if evicted. It's not a blanket way to get out of paying rent. See p.2 of cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/pdf/… – Barmar Apr 2 at 22:14
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    @7529: Astrologers are not the only oracles in the world and do not have a monopoly on the word "querent". The term may be used for any one who consults any stripe of oracle, seer, prophesier, vaticinator, prophet, diviner, auspex, sibyl, or augur. More broadly, a querent is one who consults, usually in desperation, a maven authority whose wisdom he has no rational reason to trust. - I cannot imagine a more fitting description of what typically obtains on SE sites. – A. I. Breveleri Apr 3 at 23:51
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  1. Confirm that the letter does come from your landlady/lord. Call them and talk directly. At that point, you can inform them that you have solid evidences of having paid the rent. Don't argue over anything; cut the conversation short if they confirm.
  2. If they confirm, get a lawyer. They know you paid by check, they know checks leave traces at the bank, so there's no point arguing with them. (Just imagine how that conversation would go: "–You didn't pay. –But the bank has the receipts. –Ah. Okay then, forget about it.")
  3. Let the lawyer deal with it.
  4. Find another place to live, probably. I wouldn't feel too comfortable living under that sort of owner.
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    "If they confirm, get a lawyer. [...] Just imagine how that conversation would go: "- You didn't pay. - But the bank has the receipts. - Ah. Ok, then, forget about it" - I'm confused; If the conversation is that simple and gets the landlord off your back, why pay for a lawyer? – marcelm Apr 3 at 12:31
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    @marcelm I don't think any conversation would ever go like that. May be it was not clear enough, but I don't imagine that if they know you have the bank statements, and they know you paid, that they would simply drop it when you point out those simple facts. So that conversation would in fact never happen like that – njzk2 Apr 3 at 14:16
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    Ahh it was sarcastic; I took it literally. Nevermind then :) – marcelm Apr 3 at 19:35
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    it's possible that the letter was sent to the wrong tennants, and there are real deadbeats at some other address, assuming a reasonable landlord a conversation like that is possible. – Jasen Apr 4 at 6:56
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    @njzk2 but... some people are irrational about trying to pull one over on you, and might back down if you point out that you have solid legal evidence. So... why not take the extra few seconds to call them on it, before you pony up for lawyer fees? Sure, the chances of success aren't great, but the comparative cost is very low. – Ben Barden Apr 5 at 15:54
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Perhaps this should be a comment, but I feel like it's too important to leave buried there. As with the other answer, this assumes the question is US-based.

I would recommend talking to a lawyer or a housing counselor sooner rather than later. Ideally, you want this resolved prior to any suits being filed.

If a landlord files an eviction suit against you, that will end up on your rental history, regardless of the outcome of the suit. It can be removed, but you have to do all the legwork and it requires a judge's ruling.

A robust response under the letterhead of a lawyer or housing agency should make it clear to your landlord that you're not messing around.

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    Hiring a lawyer might be reasonable advice, after they ensure that it's not simply a scammer and perhaps have a discussion with their landlord. – Nat Apr 3 at 10:34
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  1. Verify the letter came from the landlord and the apartment number, name, and landlord info is correct. Take a picture and send to landlord or stop by the office to verify the letter.

  2. Show cancelled checks to landlord Stop by the office and state there must be a mistake and show cancelled checks. If you cannot show in person, then send via certified letter and also request a payment report for your lease with current balance. Redact part of the account number on the checks but show last 4 digits in case the wrong person sees them. Verify you are sending in the checks to the correct address / drop box

  3. Request a follow up letter stating the previous letter was sent by mistake or state the rent is paid in full and the as of date it is paid in full. Request a payment report for your lease with current balance. If you make the request verbally and no report in a few days, send certified letter

Now you have phone records, text messages, and certified letters attempting to correct the situation to support your case if it goes to court or you need a new apartment and the new landlord finds there were problems with the previous landlord

If the above doesn't fix the situation, something very unusual and possibly criminal is happening. If the above is not going in the right direction, mention you will file a police report if this is not resolved in 5 business days. If the landlord's bank has no record of your check but your checks were cashed, someone must have stolen your checks and you need to contact the police. 3 months of rent is a substantial amount of money and should get you over the typical $2000 threshold for the police to investigate

  1. Get a receipt for every check you provide going forward since there were problems even if they are resolved above, start getting receipts. Very important to get receipts. otherwise you cannot prove the landlord received and there is gray area as to whether or not it was received. Note a payment report from the landlord is a receipt for past rent payments

It is possible someone in her office intercepted your check and deposited it in their personal account or in the wrong account. If this happened, there is nothing you can do to verify their bank deposits, you can only verify your bank transactions even if it is your check. A receipt shows the landlord has control of your check and if they lose the check after that, you are not liable. If you mail the check and someone took the check, it is a federal issue as someone tampered with mail and police needs to be contacted.

The drop box they use might not be secure and check if it has been replaced recently or tampered with. If so take pictures of the drop location.

As long as you have cancelled checks made out to the landlord you are good. Especially if the first rent payments were processed successfully but then they were not later. Let the landlord take you to court where you will show a summary of payments, your bank statements, pictures, text messages, certified letters, and a copy of all cancelled checks. The landlord will lose money serving you and opening up a case BUT you have to show up for court with the right documentation, if you don't show up you automatically lose

I would plan on moving after your lease is up, don't worry about it too much

  • Note I am not a lawyer and the above is not legal advice, it is what I would do in a similar situation
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  • One more thing, if the signature matches on the payments received and the payments not received, this is one giant piece of evidence in your favor. It means the landlord received it if it is their signature. John L – John L Apr 3 at 18:50
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    And another thing - under no circumstances give the original cancelled cheques to the landlord or their agent. Don't give them an opportunity to snatch them from your hands, either. Once they're out of your hands, they have as much value as a pile of shredded paper. Instead, get a certified copy made (depending on where you are, this might require a Justice of the Peace, or you may be able to get it done by a Pharmacist or by a police Sergeant or some other trusted professional listed by the relevant statutes). – cas Apr 5 at 11:52
  • @cas Banks in the US stopped physically returning cancelled checks in ~2004. Now you get a scanned copy--a digital scanned copy if you only get a digital statement. – user3067860 Apr 5 at 18:03
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The facts as you've presented themselves put you in the right and the landlord in the wrong. It's no way to do business. I hope you ascertain what's really going on and resolve the dispute amicably.

I've been a landlord for a few decades. Most of my difficulties with have been simple misunderstandings. If you showed me the cancelled checks and bank statements, that would settle it with an apology from me. But your landlord is not me.

There's probably more going on than just rent being paid or not. You know your circumstances. Search for reasons why this is a pretext. Never confuse the pretext for the text. If you didn't place the rent check into the landlord's hand, it's altogether possible someone in between has stolen your rent money. Or the bank may be involved if there were non-sufficient funds at an inopportune time. (You'd know if that happened.)

This is business relationship with your landlord. You pay rent exchange for living there peaceably. This has made your tenancy less comfortable, and the universe may be telling you to seek a landlord upgrade. Or your actions may have led the landlord to seek a tenant upgrade--you're in a better position to know than me.

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I had a similar situation, but with a storage garage, not my apartment. The landlord contacted me that I hadn't paid rent for 3 months and that I needed to pay back rent or get my stuff sold off.

The very next day, they came back to say that they had an employee embezzle the payments by depositing the rent checks into their own account for several of their customers, instead of the business account. They even went so far as to give me a refund of whatever fee my bank charged me to stop payment on my latest check, if it hadn't been cashed/deposited yet. They also let me show them my bank statements to the fact that the checks were written and cashed/deposited, including the cancelled checks themselves.

I think they explained that they were going to get their money from the employee, rather than make me pay twice, with the embezzlement being their problem, not mine. Fortunately they realized the mistake/problem right away and were willing to make reasonable accommodations.

Your landlord might have made a mistake or an employee stole the checks, like what happened with mine. I'd start off by giving them the benefit of the doubt. This includes making sure the letter was from your landlord and not a scam, as suggested by other good Answers. Make sure you contact them through your usual methods of contact, rather than anything the letter suggests using. If it is from your landlord, also make sure they know what building, floor, apartment, whatever you live in/on to make sure they have contacted the correct person. Once you know for a fact that they are concerned with you, then you can use the advice of the other various Answers here.

And if it's a scam, you can report it to the proper authorities to help prevent other's from falling for it.

For the US: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0079-rental-listing-scams
For the UK: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/rental-fraud

I'm sure there are relevant agencies for other jurisdictions.

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Note-I am not a lawyer and this assumes a US-based dispute

A cancelled check does not count as a receipt, but it does count as a proof of payment. In your instance, this might be all that you need should you be drawn into a small claims court.

However, images from your bank of the check backs with his/her signature IS INDEED a receipt of sorts, as it proves he/she must've received the check to be able to sign it.

If you have the above documentation, and bank statements reflecting a withdrawal for those amounts, for the 3 month period in question this will surely sort itself out in your favor.

Communicate with the landlord / landlady in person of over the phone to continue to address the issue in case this is a scam. Otherwise, good luck, and stay calm because you have the proof you need.

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