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I have power of attorney for my friend, but her landlord keeps refusing my checks. Can they do that?

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Question:

I have power of attorney over the affairs of my ailing friend, including signing and sending her rent checks via a trust that I've set up with her attorney. The landlord returned my first check, saying that the tenant of record needed to have signed it, and in the meantime has sent a bill for the rent being past due. I called to explain the situation, and the landlord asked me to email a copy of the Power of Attorney document, which I plan to do. But what happens if they continue to refuse the checks, and treat my friend as being in arrears or in default with the rent?

Answer:

It's reasonable for your landlord to request a copy of the Power of Attorney document, say our experts, but if they continue refusing rent checks and charging late fees, you'll have grounds for a harrassment case.

"Requesting and providing the power of attorney document should end the issue with the rent payment," says Douglas Elliman Property Management's Thomas Usztoke.

This is because, legally speaking, refusing your rent checks isn't an option. "They have to take rent from someone who has power of attorney," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations. "You should definitely send the landlord a copy of the document."

If they continue to refuse your checks, says Himmelstein, write your landlord a letter stating that they are legally required to accept rent from you, and that if they refuse, you'll consider it a form of harassment and file a complaint with the DHCR, or take them to court. (You can register complaints with the DHCR if the apartment is rent-stabilized, or sue for harassment if it's market-rate.)

Another option is to file an HP action on the grounds that your landlord's refusal to accept checks constitutes harassment. You'll have an even stronger case if they continue sending late rent notices, or try to take you to court over missed payments. Either way, if the issue goes to court, your landlord will likely be ordered to stop their behavior, and start accepting your payments.

And for the purposes of creating a paper trail if this does go all the way to a court battle, Himmelstein suggests sending your initial letter via FedEx, or any other method that provides you proof of delivery. If you have evidence that you gave the landlord all the necessary information and registered your initial complaint, you'll have a much stronger case against them.


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