Can an apartment complex charge a $100 late fee?

My daughter-in-law just moved into and apartment. I looked over her lease and they charge a $100 late fee. Is this legal? Also, the lease looks altered; the $100 looks like it was written in and copied.

Asked on October 29, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, late fees are legal and common. A $100 fee is on the high side, but in most jurisdications, it would be allowed as long as agreed to between the tenant and landlord prior to sigining the lease. There are some jurisdications--e.g. NJ--which do put some restrictions on what a landlord may charge in some cases, and there are also limitations applicable to public or subsidized housing; for a definitive answer, your daughter-in-law should have her lease reviewed by a local landlord-tenant attorney. (Though note: you have to bear in mind the context--how much rent does your daughter pay? A $100 fee on a $1,000 - $2,000  monthly rent is different, and would be viewed differently by the courts, than a $100 charge on a $400 rent.)

The above said, ONLY if the fee was agreed to before your daughter-in-law executed the lease would it be legal. Once the lease has been signed, the landlord may NOT unilaterally change it or add new fees or terms to it.

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