Does my management company need to bill me for a month-to-month rent increase?

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Does my management company need to bill me for a month-to-month rent increase?

My lease ended 2 months ago. According to it, my tenancy will go to month-to-month. Does the management company need to send me a statement of exactly what my month-to-month increase amount will be? In my lease it states 5% but it doesn’t tell me if it is 5% of just the rent portion, rent with tax and administrative fee, etc. So, I continued to send my original rent amount certified the last 2 months. Then 3 days ago I received a bill stating my rent was late and they were adding $10/day until it was cleared up (because of the 5% fee). I don’t know exactly what the 5% fee comes out to.

Asked on July 5, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If there is any reasonable ambiguity, then yes, the management company should clarify it for you. That said, if the full rent was not paid on time, it would, at least initially, be considered to be late--while you might be able to show in court that it was not late, because you did not have sufficient notice of what the amount should be, you're starting off at a disadvantage: on its face, the rent is late, and you're in the position of defending your payment.

You're problem is further that it would be one thing to have sent the lowest amount it could be--e.g.  old rent plus 5%, ignoring other fees--in which case you could quite plausibly state, if challenged, that you paid what you believed from the lease to be the rent, but will pay more if it can be proven what the additional amount should be. You would have showed good faith in that way. Instead, you paid an amount which you know would be too low--the original rent amount, when you knew (at least from what you write) that there would be at least a 5% increase in that amount. Thus, what you paid would be too low under any interpretation of the lease, and therefore in breach of the lease, in any event. This means that you are not likely to win in any regards if brought to court--you have apparently knowingly paid too little, rather than (as described above) arguable or defensibly paying the correct amount.

Ask the landlord what the rent is--ask them in writing, in some fashion that you can prove delivery. You should probably also pay the lowest amount that you believe they are entitled to (e.g. the extra 5% on the base rent) to show your good faith in trying to resolve this matter.

Note that the landlord can only charge you whatever late fee is in your lease.


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