Landlord, tenants remain at odds over stolen rent checks - CBS 5 - KPHO

Landlord, tenants remain at odds over stolen rent checks

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A thief targeted the Brookstone at the Foothills apartment complex drop box outside the leasing office and stole checks and money orders for residents' rent. (Source: CBS 5 News) A thief targeted the Brookstone at the Foothills apartment complex drop box outside the leasing office and stole checks and money orders for residents' rent. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Brookstone has provided a written statement reacting to the unfolding events. Brookstone has provided a written statement reacting to the unfolding events.
Wife and mother of two, Liz Ceballos, received a note on her door that the rent was past due. She had paid the rent but it was stolen from the complex's drop box. (Source: CBS 5 News) Wife and mother of two, Liz Ceballos, received a note on her door that the rent was past due. She had paid the rent but it was stolen from the complex's drop box. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Management of a Phoenix apartment complex is not backing down from holding tenants responsible for rent after their checks were stolen from a rent drop box provided by the complex.

In a written statement, Brookstone at the Foothills apartment homes said, "When tenants choose to place rent in the drop box rather than hand deliver their rent, they assume the risk of loss, just like they would if they sent their rent in by mail and it did not make it to the rental office." 

Valley attorney Nathaniel Nickele, who handles landlord tenant disputes, disagrees. He believes this is a clear-cut case and that the complex is responsible.

"If I were the attorney for the tenants, I would say that they did make delivery," Nickele said. "That's the drop box everybody knows you put your rent in it. If the complex has made that available and made it known, then it's reasonable for the tenant to rely on that being a valid method."

Liz Ceballos is one of several residents whose check was stolen. The Brookstone at the Foothills apartment complex was targeted by a thief on Oct. 1. The crook broke into a drop box outside the leasing office and stole checks and money orders for residents' rent.

Four days later, Ceballos - a wife and mother of two - received a note on her door that the rent was past due.

"It doesn't seem fair we're paying for something that was not our fault," said Ceballos.

Management of the complex is ordering Ceballos and the other residents affected to cover the rent money that was stolen or face eviction on Dec. 20.

"Because somebody decided to break in to the office and steal the money, now I have to pay it again," Ceballos said.

Phoenix police said this is a huge problem that seems to be a growing trend. Rent drop boxes throughout the Valley have recently become the target of thieves.

Management at Brookstone said they have not started formal eviction proceedings against any of the affected tenants. They said they would give tenants a reasonable amount of time to provide replacement funds.

They are urging them to work with their banks and other financial providers to resolve the problem.

"It was not the tenants fault. They delivered their rent. They did what they were suppose to do," said Nickele.

Here is the complete statement released Thursday by officials with the Brookstone at the Foothills apartment homes:

"The recent events concerning several checks being stolen from the night drop box at Brookstone at the Foothills is extremely unfortunate, and we sympathize with those tenants whose rent money was stolen by unidentified criminals. The rental agreement between the parties, however, makes clear that it is the sole responsibility of the tenant to pay rent.  The night drop box that is located on the property is provided as a convenience to the tenant as one of three options to paying rent; the other two options being payment of rent through hand delivery or sending the rent to the property via certified or regular mail. When tenants choose to place rent in the drop box rather than hand deliver their rent, they assume the risk of loss, just like they would if they sent their rent in by mail and it did not make it to the rental office. 

"With the holidays fast approaching, it is understandable that any report of a well deserving person facing eviction would garner public outcry; however, it is important to remain objective and evaluate the facts at hand before rushing to a rash judgment that tenants of Brookstone at the Foothills are being mistreated in any way. To the contrary, Brookstone at the Foothills has not taken any affirmative steps to initiate eviction proceedings against any tenant who may be the victim of theft. Moreover, Brookstone at the Foothills has already taken steps to work, individually, with each tenant that was affected by this crime to give the tenants ample time and opportunity to pay their rent and continue to reside at the property. By allowing the tenants a reasonable amount of time to provide replacement funds, tenants should have more than sufficient opportunity to trace funds to determine if rent checks were cashed or not or to be reimbursed by their banks or other financial providers if they were the victims of fraud or theft.  As long as tenants make a diligent effort to follow procedures to obtain replacement funds for their rent, they will not be subject to eviction proceedings."

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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