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Money Management Q&As


Rejecting a tenant with a criminal record

While checking into a prospective tenant's background I found out that he used to be a drug addict and was convicted for possession of narcotics. Can I refuse him an apartment on that basis without risking legal trouble?

No. A former drug addict is considered a disabled person, so you can't reject him as a tenant for that reason alone. You'd probably be on safe ground if he has other criminal marks on his record, though; you could justifiably argue that someone who breaks the law may do damage to the apartment or skip rental payments, both legitimate business concerns. And if he has other business-related strikes against him, such as questionable credit or an unstable work history, that's even better. But to protect yourself in case he charges you with discrimination, document your reasons for refusing him and make sure you use the same criteria for evaluating all applicants.

I often get checks from my credit card issuers. Are there times when using a check tied to my credit account would make more sense than just giving my card to a merchant?

No. Amounts paid using these checks start racking up interest charges immediately-there's no grace period-and the interest rate is typically higher than the rates for the cards themselves. A potential double whammy for folks who carry balances: The issuer will likely apply any payments made to the lower-rate card balance first.

Card issuers often supply "convenience" checks not for use with merchants but rather to encourage new customers to transfer balances from other cards. Although transferring a balance to a lower-rate card can make good sense, it's best to do it by completing the balance transfer form available from the issuer receiving the transferred amount. If you can't download the form from the issuer's website, call the customer service number to request one.

Don't fall for this hotel guarantee

Several travel websites claim to guarantee the cheapest rate available for the same hotel and promise a free night's stay to customers who find better rates at other sites. Obviously they all can't have the least expensive rate, so what's the catch?

Almost any other truly competitive rate probably will be listed among the many exclusions in the fine print. The typical language says the competitor's rate must be publicly available online. That means corporate or group prices, those discounted for members of clubs such as the AAA or the AARP, prices provided as part of a vacation package, and rates negotiated by auction sites such as don't count. So to find the best hotel rate you still have to comparison-shop among multiple vendors. Make sure you visit each hotel's home page for online specials, too, and call the reservations desk to ask about any other available promotions or discounts.

Do you have a money management question that may be stumping other doctors, too? Write: MMQA Editor, Medical Economics, 123 Tice Blvd., Suite 300, Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677-7664, or send an e-mail to (please include your regular postal address). Sorry, but we're not able to answer readers individually.

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