Photo Credit: uzvards

The following is a guest post by Green Panda’s husband, Blue Panda:

Last week, my wife posted about the apartment complex’s claim that our automatically-mailed check was not received.

As it turns out, we left the apartment letter off of the address we were sending the checks to. So, technically, the fluke was that the previous checks made it to the correct destination.

Not that we trust the postal service to deliver mail to the correct location. So far, I’ve had insurance papers and the title to my car be handed to me by friendly neighbors who noticed that they received another person’s important mail. And, of course, there’s things we never received, like the PIN to my wife’s Wachovia check card and who knows what else. If the postal service can’t be trusted to deliver such important items as a title deed or the PIN to a bank account, what chance does an itty-bitty thing like a rent check addressed to the same street have of being delivered correctly?

ING Direct credited the full amount back to our account, which should be available 3 business days after the amount was credited. It seems we were not charged the $25 fee for stopping payment on the check, perhaps because the previous checks had been delivered successfully to the intended location and so we would have expected subsequent checks to clear as well. Whatever the reason, we’re grateful for that.

The apartment managers are being more stubborn, though. They still insist on the late fees. We haven’t heard anything from the complaint sent to the parent company. The late payment is now on our record, along with documentation explaining the circumstances (i.e., that this is a rare circumstance). The management claims that the incident won’t be reported to any other companies, but we have a copy of the documentation just in case.

Even though the check is most likely in a neighboring apartment to the leasing center, from what I’m told, the computerized system they use will not accept late checks as they are statistically more likely to bounce. The fact that ING Direct will not send a check if it would bounce makes no difference to the policy. The level of customer service is far, far lower than that of our previous landlord.

We now have a few options for future payments:

  • Continue sending paper checks to the corrected address and hope the postal service is competent enough to deliver them properly. (The landlord in our previous location never had any problems receiving paper checks from ING Direct.)
  • Pay with money orders delivered in person. This costs about a dollar per money order and isn’t automatic like bill pay. It’s annoying, but guaranteed to be reliable.
  • Pay with electronic checks. Normally, this would be free but the service the apartment complex uses charges a $2.50 “convenience fee.” The incredibly irritating thing about this “convenience fee” is that it should be quicker and easier to process an electronic payment than a paper check. If it isn’t, then do I really want to trust sending my money to such an inefficient electronic system? Neither possibility puts me at ease.
  • Pay by writing a check using one of our Wachovia accounts and deliver them in person. This circumvents the $1 fee a money order would cost, but the money could potentially make more than $1/month if it stayed in the ING Direct checking account, so nothing would really be saved.
  • Pay using paper checks using next-day certified mail. ING Direct charges a $15 fee for this, so it isn’t cost-effective since there are other, cheaper reliable methods available.
  • Pay with the “credit” feature of a bank card. The service the apartment complex uses charges $17 or so for this, so that’s right out.

We’re not completely sure which option we’ll use just yet. Personally, I’m feeling vindictive and would like to choose whichever is the least cost-effective for those who would try to take as much advantage of us as they can. Of course, I can’t know which one that is and so the money order is likely the best choice. The other choices are unreliable or potentially involves what I consider to be an unethical “because we can” fee.