Is it "okay" for a landlord to not charge the tenants a late fee as specified in the lease?

by admin on March 9, 2011

My current tenant has been in my rental property for 10 months now. They have always paid their rent on time and there have literally been no problems, except that I received their rent check for this month 3 days late. They have a history of staying in a rental property for multiple years, from what I could gather before they moved into my property, and I would love for them to continue renting as I see them as ideal tenants.

When ever I have a random late fee on a credit card or something else, I can usually get it removed, so along those lines of "fairness" and in the spirit of the holidays and having no desire to screw my tenants since I would like them to renew their lease in a couple months, I have decided I do not want to "bother" collecting a late fee from them. (Like I said, this is the first time in 10 months and it is only 3 days late.)

I’ve had to go after previous tenants for unpaid rent in court and can play hard ball if I need to, but it is so much easier to win them over with kindness. No?

My concern is that I don’t want to seem like a weak landlord, nor do I want to create a precedent where the tenants think it is alright to send the rent late. I don’t know the tenants personally but I do like them as tenants.

Think I am getting myself into trouble if I let this one slide? Should I only waive it if they ask? I imagine if I do allow this one to slide I should send them a letter outlining the reasons I’m forgiving the late fees so it can’t be as estoppel or waiver in the future?

(The lease does state that rent is due on the 1st and late after the 5th. It also clearly states the late fees. Just saying that I could if I wanted to, I’m not making up terms of the lease.)


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    { 12 comments… read them below or add one }

    Janet P March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    No trouble.

    Let them know that you normally charge a late fee, but because it is Christmas this month you will let it slide. You will be the good guy.

    Talon March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    a

    Nurop Shnup March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    It’s not only okay it cool.
    3 days isn’t a big deal.

    sexychick<3 March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    thats illegal.

    Veritas March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Give them a break, but also mention it to them
    Be thankful you have tenants like that

    Lucy Lu March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    You are a landlord with a heart. 3 days late is not a big deal. You are not a weak man. If it happens again though charge them and have a talk with them.

    unknown G March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    You can let one late cheque pass especially since they’ve been good tenants for years

    If they continue to give late rent then you must pursue them with a late fee

    lickitysplit March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    let it go and if it happens again make them pay it then

    iceman30906 March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Everybody goes through hard times. Let it slide, but if it becomes a problem, say something to them and then start charging them the late fee.

    John P March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Make sure you talk to them and explain the late fee. Tell them that this one is waived due to the holidays, good past payment, or whatever other reason you want. Make sure they understand that if this becomes a habit, they will have to start paying the late fee.

    NONYA March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    The way it works, if you are the landlord, are the decision maker with regard to the property… you can forgive and waive fees. I don’t recommend however. You continue to carry the debt, in limbo then write if off the end, because it you appear soft they WILL think about using this when they get into some bind.

    You hate to see someone do without, but a rental is YOUR income. Someone once told me a renter was 6 months behind and he was feeling the sob stories, but he dropped by while in the area walking in on a cookout of prime steaks and a case of beer. He somewhat paused to judge this, but became angered that he would be hard-pressed to buy steaks that looked like that, and that beer is a HIGH cost beverage. Said he would not have even thought twice about a 6pack, but a case for 2 people he found unacceptable, and began eviction on the spot.

    There’s a huge difference between being a charitable person, and being taken for a ride. If you waive the fee on the first late, in fairness you pretty much should do this for everyone. People that are bad (non-paying tenants ALWAYS seem to meet their payment for several months without issue. I have even heard some renters talking that had already learned the sort and order of when they could stop paying, ride it out and then move on.

    David Z March 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    it is totally up to you if you want to waive it. I think it sends them the message there is no penalty for being late. I would charge the late fee. It should serve an incentive to them to not be late again.

    This also may be warning that financial troubles are coming for this tenant. Something caused them to be late.

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