WHAT IS a joint endorsement
A joint endorsement may be required on a check presented for deposit or collection payable to two or more people. The purpose of a joint endorsement is to prevent a person from depositing or cashing a check without the knowledge or without the permission of the other person to whom the check is made out.
The rules for joint endorsements vary by state, bank and even the type of check presented. For example, when checks are made against a married couple and deposited into their joint account, many banks will not require both spouses to endorse the check; after all, the money goes into an account to which they share access. On the other hand, most banks will require that checks issued by the United States government, such as tax refund checks, be jointly endorsed, even to be deposited in a joint account.
Details make the difference
The need for a joint endorsement can be determined by the way the check is written. According to the legal agreement, if the two names of the beneficiaries on the check are separated by the word and or any symbol or abbreviation of the word and, then the bank may require joint approval. Thus, a check made out to “Jane Doe and John Doe”, “Jane Doe & John Doe” or “Jane Doe + John Doe” would require a joint endorsement. On the other hand, if the names of the recipients on the check are separated by a single comma, such as “Jane Doe, John Doe”, then either party could endorse the check. Note that not all banks may follow these agreements and may in any case require a joint endorsement.
Joint riders in owner-tenant transactions
The issue of joint endorsements often arises in landlord-tenant relationships because many life 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 drawn up by all, or all, tenants listed on the lease, using a version of and between names. Often the letters JT are added to the names, which means “roommates”. A problem arises when two unrelated roommates have separate bank accounts because the owner’s check can only be deposited into one account. In this case, the reimbursement check must still be jointly endorsed by the two tenants before it can be deposited in one of the tenants’ bank accounts. The depositor would then likely write a separate check to the other tenant.