If you've ever written a check and regretted it or lost one, you've probably put a stop payment on it at the bank. But it turns out that may not be enough to keep the money in your account indefinitely.
All Julian Nichifor wanted to do was find a way to keep his dog in his backyard. He decided an electronic fence was the way to go so he called up Invisible Fence in Sioux Falls.
"He said in order to get in on our busy schedule you have to put a deposit of $450. I did write a check for $450. I signed a piece of paper that I would agree to do the fence," Nichifor said.
A couple of weeks passed and Nichifor decided to cancel, so he called the company 24 hours before the work was to be done. Nichifor describes the conversation that took place over the phone.
"There's no work performed yet, no nothing, so can I have a refund back? He said, 'No you're not going to have your refund back. I'm going to cash it.' I said, 'You're forcing me to go to the bank and put a stop pay.' He said, 'Go ahead,'" Nichifor said.
And that's exactly what Nichifor did. He put a stop payment on the check because he felt it wasn't fair for the company to keep his money without doing the work.
This story may have ended there. But it didn't.
"Six months later, last Friday, I come home, my wife was doing the checks and she said you wrote a check for Invisible Fence and I said, 'No, I put a stop pay six months ago.' [She said], 'Well, they just cashed our check,'" Nichifor said.
Now, here is something most bank customers don't know; it is standard in the banking industry for stop payment orders to expire after a sixth month period. That's the minimum time according to the laws that banks must follow. At some banks, customers must then pay another fee of about $30 to extend the stop payment another six months.
What is your bank's policy? That's up to you to ask.
"I went to the bank and they told me, 'Sorry this happened to you,'" Nichifor said.
"The intent of a stop payment order is not to allow a dissatisfied customer to basically absolutely never refuse to make good on whatever payment they made to the merchant providing the product or service. Putting a shelf life on those stop payment orders is one way to encourage the two parties to work through their differences," South Dakota Bankers Association President Curt Everson said.
Nichifor did call up James Hodges, the owner of Invisible Fence, but Hodges would not return the $450 deposit.
KELOLAND News repeatedly asked Hodges to do an interview to present his side of the story and he refused.
In the meantime Nichifor has filed a lawsuit in small claims court to try to get his deposit back. He says he hopes consumers can learn from his mistakes.
"One, be aware of what you sign and what you give as a deposit. And two, make sure if you're dealing with a bank that you know all the ins and outs and they tell you," Nichifor said.
While investigating this story, we called Wells Fargo to ask them about their stop payment policies. Wells Fargo says a stop payment costs $31 on most accounts and expires after six month, at which time customers must pay another $31 to have it last another six months.
Shortly after we talked with Wells Fargo, Nichifor got a call from the bank telling him Wells Fargo would refund his account.
And while Nichifor may have his money back, it's still a good idea to know your bank's policy when it comes to stop payments on checks.