Profile picture for user735026

Can a landlord charge late fees for late fees?

We got ourselves into a real mess. We put $15,000 down on what we thought was a "Land Home Contract", but titled "Rent to Own". We had to break the contract after 2 years as my job situation changed and left us really tight! So the husband told us we could stay for $800 a month until we find a place. We were a week late in January, but paid to date since then. However the wife has sent us a balance each week that keeps going up and she stated that its due to late fees that were never paid. So late fees on late fees?? Is this legal?
  • May 18 2012 - Wadsworth
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Answers (6)


You may have more rights then you think! The tenant always wins (almost always)! If you can show that you think you have a "land contract" vs a "rent to own" agreement the law is on your side. If you have a "Land Contract" the owner may have to follow all foreclosure proceedings to get the home back. This could mean that you can live in the property for a year or more while the owner is forced to go through complicated procedures. This may be a way to recoup the $17K that you put down in "free rent". At a minimum, this may give you leverage to get back the fees. If you are still in the home, I'd force the owner to evict you and stop payment immediately but continue to stay there and simply push to not have a money judgment in court... I'm a little aggressive though. Let me know if this helps. Mike
  • June 22 2012
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Profile picture for sunnyview
I would not pay a dime unless it is in writing. The job of providing proof of the "late late fee" is hers alone. Since the landlord drew the contract any grey area about that would be in your favor in court.

Also be careful when you move to photograph EVERY surface in the house with a newspaper in the first shot showing the date. Your best bet with this type of landlord is keeping everything in writing and not budge unless it's the law or in writing in the contract. Give her an inch and she'll take a mile.
  • May 18 2012
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Profile picture for user735026
Thanks! Its one thing when your aware of the fee, but to get it out of the blue? I am a pretty reasonable person who can view and understand all sides to a situation. (well, most) However, I guess politically there are a lot of things that are legal that morally are incorrect. I cannot see how in the world someone who got $17,000 for nothing, just handed to them can continue to ask for more. Then I got a letter stating that I'm not allowed to take my possessions with me or theft charges will be filed. I can prove their mine and I showed her the proof so she dismissed that of course. But to extort someone with 4 children is just sick sick sick. I just wish that this late fee on late fee was illegal so I didn't have to pay her the ever accumulating fee! I can make payments on it but its too much to pay at once at this point. I just want out for goodness sakes! Lol... Ug
  • May 18 2012
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Profile picture for JoelAPatton
My rental contracts all state that payments go towards outstanding balances prior to being applied to your current month's rent.  So, if you were late and never paid the late fee, but were "current" on every payment since then, it would show up in my books as you not actually making a complete on-time payment since the late fee was charged.  So I wouldn't charge a late fee on the late fee (which I am not sure if it is legal since late fees in Missouri must be reasonable to cover the associated cost/work of collecting the late payment), but I would be entitled to charge you a late fee for every month's rent since your original late fee (but if you are paying on-time, I wouldn't think most landlords would want to cause too much of a hassle).  At the end of the day, it comes down to what is written in the contract.  If it is not spelled out in the contract, you will probably need to check with a lawyer.
  • May 18 2012
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Profile picture for sunnyview
Probably not. Read the contract and consider asking an attorney in your state what the law is on the Avvo forum for free.
  • May 18 2012
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
As you are not in a traditional rental situation, you probably should consult with an attorney on this late fee on late fee.    I know if I am late with paying a doctor bill, or credit card bill etc and I don't pay the late fee promptly - the interest continues to accumulate on late fees.  

May all go well finding a new place promptly.
  • May 18 2012
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