If my tenant does not pay their rent on time and we do not have a lease, can I charge them a late fee?

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If my tenant does not pay their rent on time and we do not have a lease, can I charge them a late fee?

My tenant is 3 days late in the rent this month. This has happened before in the past and I have never charged them. If we do not have a lease can I charge them a late fee? If so what is standard fee amount?

Asked on September 28, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Maine

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You do have a lease but it is an oral month to month lease, which is a very dangerous thing to play around with.  Oral contracts are enforceable but the terms of the contracts must be very clearly understood by each party.  They must also not violate the statute of frauds which states that certain types of contracts must be in writing and leases for more than a year generally fall in that category.  Because you probably never discussed a late fee your ability to charge it past a certain amount of says must be given you by state law.  That would best be discussed with an attorney in your area.  Generally states allow a five day leeway but allow the parties to lessen that time contractually, i.e, written in the lease!   Speak with an attorney in your area and with the tenant and discuss the issue in detail.  Each month is a new "lease" and renewal.  Good luck. 


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