Fees for late rent payments are pretty normal but that doesn't mean you should be forced to eat ramen all month because your check arrived two days late. When you sign a lease, you should make sure it lists a clear late fee and number of days at which the fee is triggered. Your landlord can't make any changes to this policy during the lease without your consent.
Certain states have laws on the books that set a ceiling for late fees. They might also specify the number of days that a landlord needs to wait before charging you a fee.
States with laws about late rent fees:
Illinois: The civil code in Illinois forces landlords to specify late rent fees in their lease if they want to charge you, and caps them at 20% of monthly rent or $20.
Maine: You have a 15-day grace period before having to pay any late fees in Maine.
Connecticut: You have a nine-day grace period in Connecticut.
Iowa: If your rent is less than $700 you cannot be charged more than $12 per day in late fees or $60 per month. If your rent is more than that, you can't be charged more than $20 per day or $100 per month. There is no specified grace period.
New Mexico: You can't be charged more than 10% of the total rent amount for each rent check that is late.
North Carolina: You have a grace period of five days in North Carolina and can't be charged more than $15 or 5% of monthly rent.
If you don't live in one of these states, then the best way to figure out if you're subject to late fees on your rent payments is to check your lease. Most landlords will include a fee amount in the term at the beginning of the lease that states the amount of monthly rent. This may be presented as either a percentage of your rent or a flat fee. If you can't find guidance anywhere, a good rule of thumb is that if you pay rent later than one week after it's due, you can expect to be charged some sort of fine.
Remember that it's always illegal to raise rent as a form of retaliation and to do it before a lease is up for renewal.
The best way to avoid late fees on your rent payments is to automate your monthly rent. You can do this easily if you already pay rent online, and can also use Flip to automate rent check payments.
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