How Long is a Check Good?

(WSVN) - If you have a job, you look forward to that paycheck every week or two. But what if you lost that paycheck or a check someone gave you for a product? Do they have to write a new one, or can they write you off? It’s why one man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Put some people behind the wheel in South Florida and they want to scream. But not Timothy Thompson.

Timothy Thompson: “I love driving.”

Patrick Fraser: “But South Florida driving?”

Timothy Thompson: “Well, I learned driving in New York, and New York is one of the worst places to drive.”

Today, Timothy is a school bus driver.

Timothy Thompson: “I am patient, yes.”

But back in 2010, he was helping put down terrazzo floors.

Timothy Thompson: “The job that I did, very labor intensive, very labor intensive.”

Timothy got a paycheck each week for $428. But one week, he lost his paycheck.

Timothy Thompson: “I thought I dropped it. I thought I dropped it because I could not find it anywhere.”

When he couldn’t find it, he went back to his boss.

Timothy Thompson: “And told him I misplaced my check. And he said, ‘Well,’ and kinda shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Well, sorry.”

His boss did loan him some money to get him through the week.

Years then passed. And when Timothy and his wife started packing up to move to a different apartment, she found that old paycheck.

Timothy Thompson: “It was between some books, you know, we had in a drawer. I couldn’t believe it. I just had no words.”

Timothy’s bank said the 5-year-old check was too old to be cashed, that he should ask his old employer to write a new check for $428. So he called them.

Timothy Thompson: “And I told her why I am calling, ask them if they could re-issue a new check because I found a lost check and she started laughing. She said, ‘No, Timothy, we can’t do that.'”

Timothy feels they should write a new check because he never got paid for the work he did.

Timothy Thompson: “‘You know that I worked for your company, I worked hard and I would be very happy if you could please re-issue this check.'”

Well, Howard, if a check expires, legally, does the person who wrote it have to write a new one?

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s a complicated answer. And it depends on whether it’s a paycheck or a check for a product. For a product, the check is good for four to five years, depending on whether you have a written contract. For a paycheck, it’s from two to five years depending on whether you are an hourly employee or work under a contract. Since Timothy got paid by the hour, his right to be reimbursed ended at two years. However, the company could re-issue the check if they wanted to.”

I contacted Creative Terrazzo Systems, where Timothy used to work. They told me they were not going to write Timothy another check. And their reasons make sense. I was told they are no longer with the bank the check was issued from, that they don’t have their bank files from 2010, and they have no way to verify if the check was ever cashed.

Leaving Timothy a little disappointed.

Timothy Thompson: “The law is the law. There’s nothing I can do.”

Now, technically, banks can refuse to cash a check after six months, but they can also cash it if they want to. So when Howard says the checks are good from two to five years, that means the person who wrote the check has to write a new one if a bank won’t take the old one.

It’s a little detailed on the time frames that you can get reimbursed for an old check. So I put the explanations for the different kinds of checks at the end of this Help Me Howard story.

Somebody deposited a problem with you? Wanna bank on us? Then make a call and cash in, ’cause it pays to check with Help Me Howard.

Paychecks are good for:

  • Two years if you are an hourly employee
  • Four years if you are a salaried employee without a contract
  • Five years if you are an employee on salary with a written contract

For a check involving any product or service:

  • Four years if there is not written contract
  • Five years if there is a written contract

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

Copyright 2018 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.