Late fee/deposit dilemma

JustSweetPeaAugust 15, 2004

At the beginning of August I neglected to mail my rent on time. I had put the check in my purse and simply forgot to mail it from work. It was the first time I was late in 5 years. My landlord called on the 6th and left a message saying if I had not mailed it yet to mail it and include a late fee of 10%. I was angry at myself for such an expensive, dumb mistake and promptly mailed the check and the late fee the next day.

I came across my lease the next day as well and here's how it reads:

"Rent is due and payable in advance on the 5th of each month. Rent more than 5 days over due will incur a late fee of 10%."

Well the way I read it, my rent would be late on the 10th, not the 6th. I called her and left a message (I can never get ahold of her directly)asking her to call me to discuss the situation. I never heard from her and my rent check and the check for the late fee cleared on the 10th.

Here is my dilemma. I am getting ready to move in October. (She does not know this-I will give her my notice 30 days in advance) I am afraid if I make a stink about the late fee that she will "find" reasons to keep my deposit. This building is over 70 years old. It is far from perfect. Aside from normal wear and tear it is basically in the same condition as when I moved in, but I'm sure she could find something if she looked hard enough.

When I mailed my Sep. rent I was going to subtract the late fee and mail a copy of my lease with that line highlighted.

What would you do?

Oh...one more detail. I talked to my neighbor downstairs and she said she sometimes mails checks on the 15th and has never been charged a fee.

I am already approved for the new apartment so there is no danger of her giving me a bad recommendation. The late fee was just the last straw after a list of issues I have had in the last year. I had to shovel our driveway several times last winter before I could leave for work and buy salt to throw down. Her solution to this was that I should park up the street where there is no hill. Why then am I paying for a garage if I can't use it when I need it most? I had to beg her to install a deadbolt-I even offered to pay for it! I had to ask her several times to either repair or replace my freezer that did not work. Most recently I had mice and she would not do anything about it. I had to buy my own traps etc. The roof is now leaking and mold is growing. She said that my ceiling would be repaired after the roof is fixed-whenever that is! Needless to say I am moving to a much newer and much nicer place.

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lazy_gardens

After you leave, call the local building code and housing agency and report the problems.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2004 at 12:45PM
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cmlawrence

I would deduct the late fee from your next month's rent. The deposit is a totally separate thing, and there are very specific laws governing them.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2004 at 2:27PM
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wellim

Honestly, I would drop it. How much money are you really talking about? You should have been aware of what your lease says. At this point, your goal should be to exit as gracefully as possible.

One thing is for sure, if you deduct the money from your rent, your LL is sure to find extract it (and maybe more) from your deposit in one way shape or form.

IMO, best to not get LL riled up at this point. Life is too short. Move on.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2004 at 5:42PM
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cmlawrence

I disagree with wellim. 10% of a months rent for most people is a lot of money.

First things first. Ask her for your 10% back. Nicely. What is she going to say? The rental agreement seems pretty clear, and your check cleared on the 10th. So, no late fee.

I have rethought my original advise. I would not deduct it from your rent check. Kind of a two-wrongs don't make a right situation. If she really won't give it back to you, and it means enough to you, you should be able to file a claim (without needing a lawyer) with whatever tenants rights organization exists in your state. It doesn't cost you anything, but puts your landlord at risk for a big penalty, so she'll probably pay up. In most states, the laws STRONGLY protect tenants over landlords. You should have a good case.

I once went to the State Labor commission because I felt my ex-employeer owed me about $500. It was a bit of a pain in the rear, required many visits to the labor commission, and many phone calls. But not only did I get my $500, but I got a $500 penalty awarded to me. Was all that trouble worth $1000? For me it was, because I learned alot about our legal system.

C

    Bookmark   August 16, 2004 at 9:16PM
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