How Not Being Careful Almost Cost Me $1200+

I’m a little ashamed to write this post. As a financial blogger I really should’ve known better. Simply as someone who cares about his finances, I should’ve known better. Luckily this is a story of ‘almost’ and I didn’t actually lose this money.

Some of you may recall that in the summer we were all ready to purchase a different condo than the one we bought. The mortgage was processed. The inspection had been done. The notary had done most of his work. The moving van was all reserved. We had even setup direct deposit for the monthly strata payments. It was this last item that nearly bit us in the ass. Sure some of those other preparations cost us money, but our realtor had been kind enough to essentially cover those by writing us a check from his commission.

Three months later we’re happily settled into the condo that we were actually meant to buy. Everything was going smoothly…well almost everything. The first month we moved in I noticed an extra charge coming out of my bank account. At the time it didn’t seem suspicious since the payment description mentioned the initials of our condo building. Basically ‘oh well, I guess there was some other move in charge that we didn’t know about’.

It was when the payment came out again on the 2nd month that I became more concerned. I was wondering how nobody could tell us about this extra $250/month charge before we moved in. Can the do that?? My mind got thinking that suddenly our nice condo was going to cost us an extra $3000/year that we didn’t know about. Awesome!

It ended up being my fiance and that pushed more for me to look into this further. When we ran into some friendly neighbors we talk to in the elevator, she directly asked if they get charged this fee too. To my surprise, they had no idea what fee we were talking about and insisted that we ask management about it.

Ok, so time to look into this nonsense. First step was to contact the strata manager to try to get an explanation. Typically he avoids my calls and e-mails, but eventually their accounting department contacts me and insists that they’re only charging the regular monthly strata payments and nothing else. Strike one.

Next I go into my bank hoping that they can shed some more light about where these charges are coming from. Hopefully I could figure things out before needing to pay for a stop-payment. Really I wanted to avoid that route in case it was some payment that I somehow just overlooked.

The bad news is that the bank rep can’t give any extra info on who is making the charges. The good news is that he checked back in my account to see how long these charges had been coming out. Yes I sheepishly admit that I never thought of checking back further. And no I hadn’t noticed these extra charges previous months. So now I knew the charges had been coming out for a few months starting with a $500+ charge. Ok great…so I’ve been getting ripped off for even more money than I had originally thought.

It took a minute for everything to line up in my mind. First clue: the charges started before our strata even had my banking info. Second clue: I couldn’t think of who else would’ve had my banking info before then. Gears turning very slowly….oh shit! This lined right up with when we were supposed to buy the other condo. Part of me was relieved to finally know who was making these charges, but I was still apprehensive about getting these payments refunded.

So back in the office I immediately check my e-mail history to make sure I had actually canceled those strata payments. Uh-oh….I had told the property manager about the situation, but never officially told him to cancel it. At that point I figured it was a coin flip whether they would refund the money or catch me on a technicality. They are a company that needs to get paid one way or another after all.

The property manager’s reply is inconclusive too. He simply told me that their finance department would be in touch. So, does he just not want to deal with telling me that it won’t be refunded? Are we going to be stuck paying the strata payments for the condo owner that screwed us over? She must be laughing that she isn’t getting charged for these. Or are they just going to get my info for a refund? At last I hear back from the finance department and they ask for my mailing address to issue a refund check. Phew!

So yeah, I should’ve been a lot more diligent with watching where my money is going. I don’t know how I didn’t notice those payments the last few months. In my defense there were all kinds of random payments to be made while trying to buy the first condo and then successfully buying the second condo. Then add in everything that had to be taken care of. Ok…it’s weak excuses. I’m careless and it nearly cost me a decent sized chunk of money. Maybe $1200+ isn’t a lot of money to some of you, but when buying a condo and starting to save for a wedding, it was sure nice to get back. Now if only I would have learned my lesson and started watching my bank account more. I’m still working on that.

Have you ever noticed any suspicious payments in your bank account or credit card? Or has not being careful nearly cost you money like this?

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