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Complex threatens evictions after rent checks are stolen from drop box

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Wife and mother of two Liz Ceballos received a note on her door that the rent was past due. She had paid the rent but it was stolen from the complex's drop box. (Source: CBS 5 News) Wife and mother of two Liz Ceballos received a note on her door that the rent was past due. She had paid the rent but it was stolen from the complex's drop box. (Source: CBS 5 News)
A thief targeted  the Brookstone at the Foothills apartment complex  drop box outside the leasing office and stole checks and money orders for residents' rent. (Source: CBS 5 News) A thief targeted the Brookstone at the Foothills apartment complex drop box outside the leasing office and stole checks and money orders for residents' rent. (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A Phoenix apartment complex is threatening residents with eviction if they do not replace money recently stolen from a rent drop box.

The Brookstone at the Foothills apartment complex was targeted by a thief on Oct. 1. The crook broke into a drop box outside the leasing office and stole checks and money orders for residents' rent.

Four days later, wife and mother of two Liz Ceballos received a note on her door that the rent was past due.

"It doesn't seem fair we're paying for something that was not our fault," said Ceballos.

Management of the complex is ordering Ceballos and up to 30 other residents who were affected to cover the rent money that was stolen or face eviction on Dec. 20.

"Because somebody decided to break in to the office and steal the money, now I have to pay it again," Ceballos said.

Ceballos says management told her that her lease explains her responsibilities when it comes to the drop box.

"I didn't find anything in the lease, I read all the fine print," said Ceballos. "Nothing about we're responsible for dropping it in the drop box."

CBS 5 News reviewed the lease and saw no mention of the drop box either. We went to the leasing office for answers from the complex management.

"Yeah. Per their lease, they are responsible when they put it in the night drop," said a manager who identified herself as Janice.

When asked if she would show CBS 5 News that portion of the lease, she asked us to come back when her regional manager was present. We continued asking questions about residents being threatened with eviction.

"We have given them 2 1/2 months to recover the money. We aren't just kicking them out. We've given them time to do the filing and get the money orders retrieved," Janice said.

Ceballos said management at the complex told her up to five other apartment complexes had been targeted. CBS 5 News was working to confirm that information with Phoenix police.

Officials with the Brookstone at the Foothills apartment homes sent the following statement late Thursday:

"The recent events concerning several checks being stolen from the night drop box at Brookstone at the Foothills is extremely unfortunate, and we sympathize with those tenants whose rent money was stolen by unidentified criminals. The rental agreement between the parties, however, makes clear that it is the sole responsibility of the tenant to pay rent.  The night drop box that is located on the property is provided as a convenience to the tenant as one of three options to paying rent; the other two options being payment of rent through hand delivery or sending the rent to the property via certified or regular mail. When tenants choose to place rent in the drop box rather than hand deliver their rent, they assume the risk of loss, just like they would if they sent their rent in by mail and it did not make it to the rental office. 

"With the holidays fast approaching, it is understandable that any report of a well deserving person facing eviction would garner public outcry; however, it is important to remain objective and evaluate the facts at hand before rushing to a rash judgment that tenants of Brookstone at the Foothills are being mistreated in any way. To the contrary, Brookstone at the Foothills has not taken any affirmative steps to initiate eviction proceedings against any tenant who may be the victim of theft. Moreover, Brookstone at the Foothills has already taken steps to work, individually, with each tenant that was affected by this crime to give the tenants ample time and opportunity to pay their rent and continue to reside at the property. By allowing the tenants a reasonable amount of time to provide replacement funds, tenants should have more than sufficient opportunity to trace funds to determine if rent checks were cashed or not or to be reimbursed by their banks or other financial providers if they were the victims of fraud or theft.  As long as tenants make a diligent effort to follow procedures to obtain replacement funds for their rent, they will not be subject to eviction proceedings."

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

SIDEBAR: Arizona Landlord-Tenant links

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RENTER'S RESOURCES Tenant Rights, Laws and Protections: Arizona (HUD) Protection from Retaliation Arizona Tenants Advocates Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act More>>

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