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The Demise of the Drop Box – 4 Tips for Minimizing Liability

Payment drop boxes were once a fixture at every community office across America. Nowadays they are slowly disappearing. With so many residents choosing to pay their rent online, drop boxes are becoming antiquated. An even bigger factor for their decline?

Lately, the risk of leaving a check or money order in an overnight drop box has skyrocketed.

Thanks to a surge in drop box thefts over the past few years, many property management companies are choosing to discontinue the practice. Crafty thieves, equipped with coat wires and adhesive, are able to fish thousands of dollars’ worth of rent checks and money orders from overnight drop boxes. These crimes often result in payments being fraudulently cashed, leaving residents and property management companies at a loss. In some instances, the theft leads to a legal battle between the resident and the management company about who is responsible for the missing rent payment.

Despite the risks, some management companies continue to offer drop boxes as an option for residents who need to make a payment after business hours. If your management company still utilizes drop boxes, here are some tips to minimize the liability.

Increase signage at the drop box

Placing a sign at the drop box informing residents that they can pay online is a great way to remind them there are safer, more convenient ways to pay. PayLease clients can obtain free drop box stickers by contacting info@paylease.com. You may also want to add a sign that indicates drop boxes are vulnerable to theft, and to use at their own risk.

Add a clause to your leases about drop box use

Addressing drop box use in your lease will offer you some legal protection should a theft occur. State that the drop box is available for resident convenience, but utilizing it is optional and carries a risk of loss or theft. Furthermore, rent will not be considered paid until you actually receive their check or money order. Be sure to consult a lawyer for the appropriate wording.

Add surveillance cameras

Some criminals are brazen enough where a camera won’t deter them. But many thieves will see a camera and decide to target a property where they won’t be recorded.

Implement a Cash Pay solution as an alternative to money orders

Drop box thieves are usually after money orders since they are the most susceptible to fraud.  Consider implementing an alternative to money orders, such as a Cash Pay solution. With Cash Pay, residents pay their management company from a participating retail location, such as Walmart or a major supermarket chain. After presenting the Cash Pay teller with – you guessed it – cash, the payment is converted into an electronic transaction and deposited into the property manager’s bank account. Most importantly it provides the resident with a proof of payment and omits the extra step of returning it to the management office.

A PayLease client recently implemented Cash Pay after they were the victim of a $40,000 drop box theft. Read their story and how it changed their collections. 

Over time, leaving a rent check or a money order in a drop box will likely become one of those things people did all the time in the “olden days”, but seems really risky in today’s world.  Right up there with leaving your doors unlocked at night, or driving without a seat belt.

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