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Ask the County Law Librarian: Stale Checks, Can They Still Be Cashed?



Q-: My daughter is in elementary school and it seems like they are always asking for money. First it was a field trip, then a fundraiser, finally I needed to purchase a school t-shirt. For each instance, I gave them a check payable to the school. They have cashed some of the checks but not all of them. The one I am concerned about was given to them and dated back in September. Now that it is November, can they legally still cash the check?

Parent in Natomas

 

A: According to “Consumer Banking and Payments Law” published by the National Consumer Law Center, six months after the date on any check, the check is considered a “stale” check. According to the Uniform Commercial Code 4-404, “A bank is under no obligation to a customer having a checking account to pay a check, other than a certified check, which is presented more than six months after its date, but it may charge its customer’s account for a payment made thereafter in good faith.” The Uniform Commercial Code 1-201 (b)(20) defines good faith as “honesty in fact and the observance of reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing.” A copy of this book is available at the law library for review.

California has adopted the Uniform Commercial Code and its version of the law is discussed in the California Commercial Code 4404. Both laws are consistent that once a check is stale the bank is under no obligation to pay the check, unless it is a certified check. However, the bank may pay the check after this time period as long as it does so in good faith.

Since it has been about 60 days since you gave the school the check, the check is not yet considered stale, so yes they can still cash the check! Even if it was a stale check, chances are good that the bank would still pay on the check. If you are really concerned, you may want to contact the school directly to see when they anticipate depositing the check. Sometimes, organizations have a regular deposit schedule. Either way, you will want to make sure that you have enough funds in your account, so the check will clear once it is deposited.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.
 

 
  • Tony Sheppard

    Or cancel the check with your bank and inform the school that you have done so.