Portland, OR asked in Collections and Small Claims for Oregon

Q: When notifying a client of a bad check, does a Certified Mail letter serve as proof, even if failed delivery attempt?

I need advice on collecting on a bad check. A client of my pet care business wrote me a bounced check for $420. I have alerted her via email (no replies), phone (disconnected numbers), and Certified Mail (failed delivery attempt). I understand that I likely need to take this to Small Claims Court, but I am concerned about needing proof that I alerted the client to the bounced check, since all attempts have failed or been ignored. Do my attempts suffice as evidence, or is there something else I should do to prove that I notified my client before taking legal action?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Joanne Reisman
Joanne Reisman
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: Do you have the original check back in your possession? I used to just take the check back to the bank it was written on (her bank) and ask the bank if they had sufficient funds so I could cash the check. Sometimes I would get lucky and the bank would pay me. You could try to cash it around the first through 10th of the month when she is likely to deposit money to cover expenses like rent or mortgage payments which are often due early in the month. (After a certain amount of time the check is considered stale and the bank doesn't have to honor it - something like 90 days or 180 days, I don't remember the rule at the moment. But the bank can choose to honor a check even if it's older than that. Just take the check into the bank and ask the bank teller to check and see if there are sufficient funds in the account such that you can try to cash the check. Don't deposit it in your account again. Keep the check in your hand and leave with it if there aren't sufficient funds and try again at another random time.)

As for the attempts to collect, try sending your letter by priority mail with tracking but don't require a signature for delivery. Enter the tracking number on line and save all the email responses you get. You will either have proof that it was delivered to her last known address or forwarded or returned as not deliverable.

Technically you just need to represent that you made attempts to collect the debt before you file the small claims papers and probably all your efforts plus the priority mailing I have just suggested will be sufficient. As for knowing that the check bounced, most people get notified by their banks when a check bounces and they get charged. My be is she knows about it. But you just need to be able to certify on the paperwork for small claims that you attempted to resolve the problem.

Filing in small claims court won't solve your problem. You will just get a judgment and then you have the problem of trying to collect it. It's generally easier to try to go to the bank as I suggested above a few times before you resort to small claims. Also if she files a bankruptcy after you get the Judgment your judgment becomes null and void.

Bruce Alexander Minnick agrees with this answer

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