My landlord is charging me a fee for late rent payments. Do I have to pay it?
- If there is no late fee clause in your original stabilized lease, you cannot be charged
- A rent payment is considered late if it is received five days or more after the due date
I've lived in a rent-stabilized apartment for many years and always mail my rent to the landlord. Now I’m being charged a fee for late payments. I’ve also been asked to pay thousands in late fees for backdated rent payments. Am I responsible for late fees if I was never told about what constitutes a late payment and it's not in the lease?
In order for you to be charged a fee for a late rent payment, your stabilized lease needs to indicate you face a penalty if you don't pay on time. And when you renew a stabilized lease in New York City, it must be on the same terms and conditions as the original lease. So, if there is no late fee clause in your original lease, you cannot be asked to pay fees for late rent payments, our experts say.
A rent payment is considered late if it is received five days or more after the due date.
"If you have a copy of your original lease and there is not a late fee clause, it cannot be imposed subsequently," says tenant attorney Sam Himmelstein, a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribbin, & Joseph (and a Brick Underground sponsor).
Rent-stabilized tenants have added protections
So if you live in a rent-stabilized apartment and the original lease makes no mention of how and when late rent penalties would be imposed, you don't have to pay them. "If the landlord tried to enforce them, they'd be thrown out of court," Himmelstein says.
This is one of several benefits of having a rent-stabilized lease and it's a question that came up during a recent Brick Underground Office Hours—a live Q&A to answer renter questions. To find out about our next event subscribe to our newsletter.
Late rent fees are allowed under the law
The situation is different if you live in a market-rate apartment in NYC. "If you have an original lease that doesn't have a late fee clause, but the landlord puts it in a renewal lease, and if you agree to it, it is enforceable," Himmelstein says.
Fees for late rent payments are capped at $50 or 5 percent of the monthly rent, whichever is less.
These caps for late fees became law with the passage of the landmark Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act in 2019.
One other provision in the law is that fees for late rent payments cannot be collected as if they were rent. So, if you don't pay your rent on time, you face eviction but "if you don't pay late fees, that cannot be the basis for your eviction," Himmelstein says. This applies to tenants in both market-rate and rent-stabilized apartments.
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