Monday, November 16, 2009
Help Me Howard: Check Cashing
Have you ever written a check, realized it was a mistake and then stopped payment on the check? Well, did you know that if it's cashed, in many cases you are responsible, and it can cost you? That's why one man turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you have to hold your breath every time a thunderstorm hits, your name might be Norberto Guerra.
Norberto Guerra: "Every time the rainy season comes out, another leak comes out."
You may know the drill: the rain falls, you look up at the ceiling, it starts to drip.
Norberto Guerra: "I keep on putting a band aid on something that needs to be redone completely."
Norberto finally decided to buy some peace of mind, so he went on the Internet, found a contractor who came to his house. They signed a contract, and the roofer was given an $1800 deposit to start work on a new roof, but that night Norberto went back on the Internet and found this complaint about the roofer...
Norberto Guerra: "Back after Wilma, he took $45,000 from a lady in Miami Lakes."
Norberto didn't know if the accusation was true, but he wasn't taking any chances. The next day, he stopped payment on the $1800 check and let the roofer know he was canceling the contract.
Norberto Guerra: "I asked him for the check, and he said, 'Well, the check isn't good anymore since you put a stop payment on it.'"
But, apparently the roofer went out and cashed the check. Norberto found that out when he got a letter from a store that cashed it.
Norberto Guerra: "Telling me that I owe them $1800, plus $90 for processing fees, and that if I didn't pay, that they would go ahead on bring civil action against me."
That made no sense to Norberto, and he wondered why the store was coming after him instead of going after the roofer who had their $1800.
Norberto Guerra: "It's really crazy. I'm baffled by it."
He's baffled, but the store says, you may have stopped payment,t but you still have to pay us the $1800 we gave the roofer.
Norberto Guerra: "I asked him, 'Don't you guys check before you cash a check, make sure it's valid, is not fraud or it has the balance in the bank?' He said, 'We're a third party, we don't have to do that.'"
And if Norberto doesn't pay the store, they are vowing to do what lawyers always threaten to do, drag you into court.
Norberto Guerra: "With a civil suit, now we're talking. I'd have to hire an attorney, and all that expenses I could incur during this, and I really don't have that money to go ahead on spend on attorneys."
Then, Norberto remembered that Channel 7 has the attorney that works for free.
Norberto Guerra: "I know that every time Help Me Howard gets involved, there's results that come with that."
Well, we don't get results every time, but, Howard, where do we go in this one?
Howard Finkelstein: "Since the contract was signed in his house, Norberto had the right to cancel the contract within three days. As for the check, he had a right to stop payment on it, but that does not protect him from what the law calls a holder in due course. In other words, an innocent third party that cashes the check."
That means Norberto is responsible for the cashed check, so we contacted the roofer to get the $1800 back. His attorney said, they would return it to the store that cashed the check the next day. They did. Norberto's nightmare has ended, and, Howard says, it was a headache he didn't have to endure.
Howard Finkelstein: "We hear this all the time. Someone signs a contract or hires a company then checks them out. Don't rush, take your time, research the company before you sign up and pay up. That's the best way to avoid headaches."
With the $1800 dilemma resolved, Norberto has hired a new roofer, and with his experience, he can offer a little advice the next time you write a check.
Norberto Guerra: "Once you put a stop payment on a check, make sure that you collect that check back, at all costs."
Now, if you stop payment on a check, it's going cost you $20 or $30 and take a day or two to go into effect. If it's cashed before, then you are responsible, but if the bank cashes it after that, they are responsible.
Someone trying to cash in at your expense? Want to stop the payment? Check in with us. We're no Sherlock Holmes, but you can bank on our deductions or so we tell ourselves.