If my money orders were stolen from a rental office drop box, am I liable?

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If my money orders were stolen from a rental office drop box, am I liable?

I paid my rent through money order on Sunday around 9:50 pm. Yesterday, I was told that 36 tenants’ money orders, along with mine, were stolen from a drop box last night around 3:00 am. I’m taking the necessary steps to send my money order receipts to get a refund Hoping that they haven’t been cashed My question is my landlord is asking me to repay the rent amount if the money orders have been cashed. He sent me video and still pictures of the 2 thieves breaking into the rent box. I have pictures of my bank account showing the amount being withdrawn to get a money order, hours before I placed the money order into the drop box. I have pictures of my money orders filled out along with my envelope and I always take a video of me literally dropping my money orders inside the drop box so that I have a time and date stamp for my records. Am I liable? Do I have to pay this amount if my money orders can’t be recovered?

Asked on June 5, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if this was the landlord's own drop box as you indicate, you are not liable to pay the rent again if the money orders are cashed: your obligation was to get the rent to the landlord, which you did. What happens next--whether it is stolen from the drop box, an employee of the landlord is mugged on the way to the bank with them, the money is embezzled by the landlord's bookkeeper, etc.--is not your responsibility. Once you paid, you are done.
If the money orders have not been cashed  and you can stop them from being cashed and get a refund, you have to do that an reissue them to the landlord, since in that case, you have not paid yet--the money will be returned to you, and if you get the money back, it is not paid. But if the money orders were cashed, then that is the landlord's loss, not yours, the same way it would be the landlord's loss if you paid in cash and the landlord was held up and robbed of the money after you had paid him.


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