Organized Crime Rings Target Dropboxes On Rental Properties

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All across the country, a disturbing trend for property management has emerged. What was once a perfectly safe method of rent payment has now become a target for criminals.

Are you still asking tenants to deposit their rent checks into a dropbox? Are you thinking it’s a safe option, because you have security cameras?

This could spell trouble—for you, your clients and your tenants. Over the summer months, several property management dropboxes have been broken into in cities like Las Vegas, Nevada and Naples, Florida, and tens of thousands of dollars in rent checks have been stolen. The thieves were caught on camera, but video footage hasn’t helped apprehend more than one single criminal.

ABC Action News reports that in the Florida area of Tampa a total of 52 apartment complexes and mobile home parks were hit by thieves. It’s a low-tech crime with a high return, especially when people pay in money orders.
In response, the property management firms who have been victims to these crimes seem unwilling to move to a safer form of payment for their tenants. Even though recommendations by lawyers and law enforcement encourage property managers to stop using dropboxes, many of those interviewed have just changed the dropbox location.

These dropbox thefts are stressful for everyone involved. Some landlords have demanded that tenants repay the stolen rent, and many tenants are fearfully watching their bank balance, even after stopping payment on the stolen checks. Property owners are out of the funds they expect on a monthly basis, and property managers have a huge administration problem on their hands.

There are two easy options for property managers still using dropboxes and ACH payments. One is to require checks be mailed in, or allow tenants to drop them off in person. The second option requires that you hand them a copy of an authorization notice, as per NACHA.

The second option is to do some research into property management software that allows tenants to pay securely online. Some, like the software from AppFolio, not only allows tenants to pay by credit card, ACH and electronic cash payments, but it also allows property managers to pay owners via electronic payment. This eliminates both the administration of physical ACH payments, but also the fear and headaches caused by these rampant dropbox thefts.

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