Feb 05

Late fees are an important tool to get your rent in before the mortgage is due.  But what is a reasonable or legal late fee?

There is a WI case that found $50 on a $625 rent was reasonable, THREE  & ONE CO. v. GEILFUSS, 178 Wis.2d 400 (Ct.App. 1993) – yes this is the same case that found letting the cat use the house as a litter box constitutes waste. Again, this one of those cases that every owner should keep in their  “toolbox”

As far as the per diem (per day) late fee, that may be another story.  We have never used these, but many owners do.

The Hud “Model Lease” does contain a provision of $5 after the 6th and a dollar a day in paragraph 5.  However private owners use higher per diem rates.

Some tenant advocates here and elsewhere are attacking the per diem late fees on grounds that they run afoul of usury laws. From their prospective for example your late fee has an APR of something like 900%. Assume your tenant misses January’s payment and doesn’t cure it for a year. They would owe $7280 on $800 debt.

The problem with a single fee is once the 5th comes and goes, what  incentive is there for tenants to cure the problem quickly after receiving the late fee other than eviction?

After much consideration our company is considering moving from a flat $30-50 fee to a two step fee. The first late fee that posts after the close of business on the 5th is around 80% of current late fee, with a second late fee posting on the 11th totaling 150% of current late fees

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