WHAT IS 'Joint Endorsement'

A joint endorsement can be required on a check presented for deposit or cashing that has been made out to two or more individuals. The purpose of the joint endorsement is to prevent one individual from depositing or cashing a check without the knowledge or permission of the other person to whom the check is made out.

BREAKING DOWN 'Joint Endorsement'

Rules on joint endorsements vary by state, by bank and even by the type of check presented. For example, when checks are made out to a married couple and deposited into their joint account, many banks will not require both spouses to endorse the check; after all, the money is going into an account to which they share access. On the other hand, most banks will require checks issued by the U.S. Government, such as tax refund checks, to be jointly endorsed, even for deposit into a joint account.

The Details Make a Difference

The need for a joint endorsement can be determined by the way the check is written. According to legal convention, if the two payee names on the check are separated by the word and or any symbol or abbreviation of the word and, then the bank can require joint endorsement. Thus a check made out to “Jane Doe and John Doe,” “Jane Doe & John Doe” or “Jane Doe + John Doe” would call for a joint endorsement. On the other hand, if the payee names on the check are separated by a simple comma, such as “Jane Doe, John Doe,” then either party could endorse the check. Note that all banks may not follow these conventions and could possibly demand a joint endorsement in any case.

Joint Endorsements in Landlord-Tenant Transactions

The issue of joint endorsements often comes up in landlord-tenant relations because many living situations involve roommates who share bills and responsibilities but who are not married or otherwise related. For example, under California law, when a landlord returns a security deposit to tenants the check must be written out to both, or all, the tenants listed on the lease, using some version of and between the names. Often the letters JT are appended to the names, meaning “joint tenants.” A problem arises when two unrelated roommates have separate bank accounts, since the landlord’s check can only be deposited into one account. In this case the refund check must still be jointly endorsed by both tenants before it can be deposited in one of the tenants’ bank accounts. The depositor would then presumably write a separate check back to the other tenant.

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