"When I went to pay my rent that day, there was a lady sitting in the office and the door was locked, and she told me to, she motioned me to go around to the drop box and drop my rent off," she explained.
McLean said she dropped her $640 money order in the apartment complex drop box to cover her August rent and thought nothing more about it until a few weeks later.
"I received a late notice. So when I received a late notice, I went to the rent office and gave them a copy of my receipt. I thought everything was fine until I received a letter that stated they wanted me to re-pay August's rent," said McLean.
Why? Because Autumn Ridge had no record of receiving McLean's money order. Through email communications, the manager at Autumn Ridge told McLean they were working with police on the matter and did put a trace on the money order.
"The money order had been altered to someone else's name and cashed on the 9th and I paid on the 3rd," said McLean.
McLean continued to pay her rent from September through December. All the while, Autumn Ridge continued to ask her to pay her August rent. But after months, and having received no payment, they moved forward with eviction.
"$640 is a lot of money to pay twice," said McLean.
I got in touch with the management of Autumn Ridge. A representative said that in August, while the drop box had many payments in it, McLean's was not one of them. Two other tenants claim they also paid with money orders that weren't received by the company.
She added there was no evidence of a break-in at their office, as no items were missing, and there was no forced entry to the rental office or drop box.
The representative said it's unfortunate this happened, as they did try and to work with the three tenants whose money orders they did not get, including offering a payment plan. She said the other two tenants did re-pay their August rent, but after months of no payment from McLean, Autumn Ridge did move forward with eviction.
Since the incident in August, Autumn Ridge has sealed off its rent drop-off box. As for McLean, she's taking her chances in court to see what a judge has to say about the eviction, but has this advice for others:
"Not to drop your payments off in a lock box and read your lease," said McLean.
The reason to read your lease is, in McLean's case, rent is not considered paid until Autumn Ridge actually cashes the tenant's form of payment and has the funds in their possession. The lease even goes on to read that if a third party does steal it, you're still responsible for paying it.
Besides McLean, I have heard from over a half dozen tenants living in other Triangle apartment complex's having the same problem. They all claim their money orders were stolen from the rent drop off boxes and they're all being asked to re-pay it.
The best advice is to drop off your payment in person to the office staff and get a signed receipt, or pay online if your complex offers that option.