Can a landlord charge a late fee if part of the rent is paid on time?

I’m renting out a room in my house for $350 a month, on a month-to month basis. Rent is due the first of the month. The rental agreement states that a late fee of $5 a day up to $25 will be assessed if rent is more than 5 days late, but does not address partial payments. Can I still charge late fees if the tenant pays only part of the rent on time and the rest later? If so, I may want to make an amendment to the rental agreement to clarify this – what would be the best way to word it? Also, must it state that late fees are non-refundable?

Asked on November 8, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

There is no need to amend the agreement to enable you to charge late fees when part of the rent is paid late--you clearly can do that. Unless the lease specifically allows partial payment or payment over time, the rent is due in full on the due date: if the entire amount due is not paid then (e.g. not paid by the 1st, in most leases), then the rent is late and you may charge a late fee. Nothing stops you from clarifying the agreement if you'd prefer, to make the above more explicit--just be aware that you don't need to. Also nothing forces you to charge the late fee if you don't want to in a given case--so if someone pays you, say, half the rent on time and will get you the rest in a week, you can waive the late fee that time at your option.


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