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I live in Quebec, and my rent cheque was stolen from my landlord as they travelled to the bank to deposit it. They've asked me to stop payment on the cheque, and provide them with a new one. The stolen cheque was not cashed, but I stopped payment, and closed the account as the cheque had personal and direct deposit info on it.

My question - am I obligated to provide them with another rent cheque for that same month, even though it's not my fault it was stolen?

In the interest of avoiding conflict, I am going to pay, but I'm just curious as to whether I am contractually obligated to.

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    Did the bank recommend you close the account? What do you feel that protects you from? – AllInOne May 18 '18 at 21:02
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Ganesh Sittampalam May 25 '18 at 12:31

11 Answers 11

230

Yes, absolutely! You are obligated to pay your rent, and you haven't done so yet. Since this was your landlord's issue and not your own, if your bank charges you a stop payment fee, it would be reasonable for you to request that the landlord allows you to discount the rent by that amount when you rewrite the check.

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    Moreover, it would be entirely expected for you to deduct any reasonable costs incurred. – Nigel Touch May 18 '18 at 18:47
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Ganesh Sittampalam May 28 '18 at 8:00
104

Your obligation wasn't to write a check...it was to pay your landlord. And you haven't actually paid until money has gone from you to the landlord. So you're still obligated to pay.

(You might not have to write another check. Any method of payment the landlord accepts will work. But if they will only accept a check, then check it is.)

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    In this case, since a debt exists, legal tender should be an acceptable form of payment, whether the landlord agrees to it or not. – prl May 18 '18 at 16:58
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    @AzorAhai I mean, there's an agreement that you'll pay X dollars at Y time; if it's not been paid, you have an unpaid debt. Whether the services have been rendered yet does not invalidate that agreement and the pending debt on that. Alternatively, the rent could be viewed as a sort of licensing fee - you pay for the right to use the apartment for the next month, just like you pay for a hotel room and then use it. – Delioth May 18 '18 at 21:30
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    @cHao in a "bad neighborhood", it's probably stupid to accept cash. – RonJohn May 18 '18 at 21:34
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    @StianYttervik It probably varies by country, but, in the U.S., there is absolutely no legal obligation to accept cash for the payment for goods and services. 'Legal tender' means only that you must accept cash for the payment of an actual preexisting debt, not in exchange for goods and services. Lots of businesses do not accept cash these days in the U.S. (especially online businesses, kiosks like RedBox, in-flight purchases on airlines, etc.) – reirab May 19 '18 at 11:44
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    @Harper: "Within the US" is implied, as the US doesn't get to declare what's legal tender in other countries. That's the job of the governments of those countries. – cHao May 19 '18 at 17:47
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Yes, you are still obligated to pay the rent.

I don't know Canadian law, but in the US, your obligation to pay a debt is generally relieved when control of the money passes to the other person.

In a simple case, suppose you paid the landlord with cash. If you gave him the cash, and then as he was on his way to the bank to deposit it, or on his way to the mall to spend it, or whatever, he was robbed, then that is his problem and not yours. You gave him the money, he accepted the money, the debt is paid.

On the other hand, if you were robbed on your way to the landlord's office and the thief took the money before you gave it to the landlord, then it is your problem. The landlord never received the money.

There are "hard cases" that end up in court, like what if as you were in the process of handing him the money, a thief burst into the room and robbed you?

If the thief had stolen the check and managed to cash it before you could put a stop on it ... you'd have to talk to a lawyer. I'd think that as the check was in the landlord's possession when it was stolen, the landlord would have to take the loss. But I'm not a lawyer.

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    +1 for the last paragraph. If the check has been cashed, it would be an entire different issue. Since you stopped it, then of course you should pay – Ant May 19 '18 at 13:50
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    I should add: Since you stopped the check, then you have not paid. If the landlord hadn't been robbed, and before he could cash your check you stopped it, surely no one would say that you have fulfilled your obligation to pay! I'm not sure what the legalities would be if you had refused to stop the check and the thief had managed to cash it, or if you delayed for no good reason. – Jay May 19 '18 at 23:12
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    @Nij: It's unlikely to be so cut and dried. Did the landlord offer to pay the fee for placing a stop payment order? Did the landlord suggest a stop payment order without saying anything about the fee, the tenant asked for the landlord to cover the fee, the landlord agreed but the check was cashed in the interim between the tenant receiving the first instruction (to stop payment) and receiving the offer to pay the costs? What if the tenant asked to see a police report concerning the theft (because he suspects the landlord still has the check and is trying to get paid twice)? – Ben Voigt May 20 '18 at 21:08
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    @nij I don't think it's that simple. What if the landlord doesn't tell the tenant that the check was stolen until after the thief cashes it? Does the tenant still take the loss? How was he supposed to know it was stolen? What if the landlord tells the tenant it was stolen 10 minutes before the thief cashes it? Was it the tenant's responsibility to call the bank within that ten minutes? How much notice does the landlord have to give before it becomes the tenant's problem? – Jay May 21 '18 at 19:33
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    @Jay: Checks aren't legal tender, so logically, providing a check isn't actually paying at all. If we accept a check, things aren't fair for both sides until we view cash-equivalent payments as two actions: the provision of something that can be exchanged for cash (by the payer), and the actual successful exchange (by the payee). So you can initiate payment by putting a valid check in my hand, but it's not complete until i receive cash. Late fees go by when the payment was initiated, because that's the only date you can reasonably control. – cHao May 23 '18 at 14:58
34

The Régie du Logement is the government agency responsible for setting regulations regarding leases in Québec. They are very clear that paying the rent in full is your #1 obligation as a tenant.

When paying by cheque, the rent is generally deemed paid when it has been honoured by the tenant’s financial institution, according to the Régie link above. In your case, that has not happened, and you still must pay the landlord.

Before you deduct anything from your rent payment, make sure that you have your landlord’s approval, given how much the page above emphasizes paying the rent in full.

You can also call the Régie or go visit them in person if you have additional questions. Their site has a lot of other FAQs available regarding obligations of the lessor and lessee.

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    The page says "Technically, the rent is paid once the cheque has been honoured by the financial institution", but I suspect that is a simplication. Otherwise evicting an unwanted tenat could be done by accepting payment and then not cashing the check for a couple of months, claiming non-payment taking them to court and then cashing the check. But I 100% agree with the advice to get the landlords approval before deducting the fee. – jmoreno May 20 '18 at 12:04
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    @jmoreno You are correct that it is a simplification. The Régie du Logement itself is also generally responsible for adjudicating claims. It’s up to the tenant to prove that they paid the rent, and I can imagine how that might go if one party claimed to have paid by cheque and the other claimed non-receipt. In practice, the other party needs to be notified of the grounds and subject of the claim beforehand and I can’t imagine this tactic getting very far. – Scott Dudley May 20 '18 at 12:16
  • If the tenant had given a receipt, would that be enough for OP's obligations to be considered fulfilled? – spectras May 22 '18 at 13:47
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    @spectras It’s doubtful. First off, my experience in Québec is that landlords don’t typically give a receipt when paying by cheque (you should have your canceled cheque anyway). Even if they did, imagine the scenario if the cheque bounced instead of having been stolen. Either way, it wasn’t honoured by the financial institution and I believe the tenant is still on the hook for paying. – Scott Dudley May 22 '18 at 14:24
14

You voided the check, so now you still need to pay the rent.

This is an area of law called "Mitigation of damages" -- everyone has a duty to prevent loss. Mainly, this shows up when you break a lease. You lease to December but on March 1, give notice for April 1. If you tell him ASAP, and he must make fair effort to find a new tenant ASAP. Once the other tenant starts paying, you're off the hook.

So under mitigation of damages, when the landlord told you he'd lost your check, he had a legal obligation to tell you to stop-payment ASAP, and you had a legal obligation to do so. If either of you failed to do so, then the money loss would be that person's. If he failed to notify you and the thief got your rent, you don't owe any more. If he notified you and you failed to stop payment, you would pay double rent, first to the thief, then to the landlord.

If you lose your paycheck, you can ask for a reprint

Many people presume you are a greedy, selfish individual looking to take advantage. I don't presume that. I worry that you have a wrong idea about the financial system, and you think it swings both ways.

Test question: If you dropped your paycheck in a mud puddle, do you now need to suffer 2 weeks' loss of income?

Answer: NOPE! Just like the landlord did: contact payroll immediately, tell them the check was lost, and ask for a replacement check.

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    If you make a reasonable effort to stop payment, but the thief cashes the check anyway, I think that would be the landlord's problem even if there might have been some way by which the check could have been stopped sooner. After all, there would likely have been some way the landlord could have prevented the check from being stolen, and it would be unreasonable to expect that e.g. a tenant should remotely check answering machine messages every hour while away from home to see if the landlord has called to report that the rent check was stolen. – supercat May 21 '18 at 20:39
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You put a stop payment on the check. At your landlords request true, but that is really irrelevant. You have made that payment null and void. You haven't paid your rent.

If the money had already been taken out of your account, you might justifiably say that you paid, and the fact that they lost the check was their problem. But that's not what happened.

Suppose that the thief is caught and the check returned to your landlord would you expect him to have the right (disregarding any fees that it might incur) to ask ask you to talk to your bank and remove the stop payment? If yes, why would you think he doesn't have the right to ask for a new check?

As a lesson learned matter, you should have talked to your landlord about the stop payment fee before issuing the stop paymnet. Now I would suggest asking him if he wants to reimburse you for that or for you to take it out of the payment (assumed sale tactic), but be prepared for him to reject both options and make you pay in full. At this point you really don't have any leverage, you owe your rent in full and have repudiated your attemt at payment.

In short, you need to pay your rent, and preferably as quickly as possible since you are now probably over due.

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    "You put a stop payment on the check." "You haven't paid your rent." These are the central points of this. Any reimbursement for any fees incurred by stopping the payment is a whole different matter. In most jurisdictions the landlord will have to pay those cost for being negligent in handling the cheque. – Bent May 20 '18 at 14:44
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Of course you are, since the rent cheque wasn't cashed. (Even if it was cashed by the thief, you still might owe him rent, but in that case I'd talk to a lawyer.)

What you can/should do is tell the landlord that you're going to deduct the cost of stopping payment from this month's rent cheque.

  • I would suggest asking the landlord for reimbursement of the cost, rather than deducting it from the rent payment, so there can be no question later about whether the rent was fully paid. – prl May 18 '18 at 17:00
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    @prl I'd write something like $1000 - $35 = $965 in the check's comment line. – RonJohn May 18 '18 at 17:02
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    @prl "Rent - $35 stop lost check" would probably fit in the memo and sufficiently documents what actually happened. – Delioth May 18 '18 at 21:32
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    @Delioth writing something in a margin does not make it true - legally, it is 100% clearer to pay rent in full and separately reimburse. – fabspro May 19 '18 at 14:07
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    Looking at the answer from Scott Dudley, deducting anything might not be wise. – pipe May 20 '18 at 8:32
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Yes you have to pay, because you have not yet paid the money to the landlord. This is the reason checks were invented. So that if they are stolen or lost, it is NOT THE SAME as if the money was stolen or lost.

4

You have to pay the rent, but you wouldn't have to cover expenses arising form you landlord's mishap. For example, if the cheque you gave to them were cashed, and you wouldn't be able to reverse the payment, you'd have a strong argument for not paying a second time*. If voiding the cheque costed you money, you could ask that cost to be deduced from the rent you owe. Since you didn't lose any money, you still owe your landlord the full amount.

(*) As an important note, you should write your cheques in a way that it would be impossible to cash them if they are lost/stolen. This is usually ensured by writing the full name of the recipient on the cheque. If you don't do this, you may be held responsible for paying the original cheque and paying your landlord.

1

Yes, obviously you still owe the rent for that month.

  • What does this add to existing answers? – Sneftel May 28 '18 at 6:42
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Yes, you still owe the rent if the rent was not deducted from your checking account balance. If the landlord had cashed the check, the money had been removed from your account balance, and THEN the landlord lost the cash, you would not owe the landlord a second check as your cancelled check would serve as proof of payment in any resulting court case.

That said, the landlord should owe you for any documentable expenses that you incurred as a result of replacing the check he lost. Documentable means expenses and fees directly related to replacing the check for which you have written, third party proof. So if you incurred bank fees related to stopping the check or issuing a second money order, those should be refunded by the landlord. Do NOT unilaterally deduct these fees from the new rent check without prior agreement (preferably written - an email or text from your landlord confirming the agreed deduction would suffice) as failure to pay the entire rent amount is often the legal equivalent of not paying anything at all and could lead to an eviction proceeding in some jurisdictions. If there is some question about the landlord's willingness to pay for the fees, issue a check for the full amount of the rent and handle the fees separately. Document everything in writing. You can always recover the fees in small claims court if it comes to that.

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    Welcome to the stack! I've downvoted this because what you've said is already covered in the other answers here so doesn't really add any value. Plus, an answer has already been accepted. Don't let that put you off from posting in the future though, it's good to have you around – trashpanda May 25 '18 at 8:07

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