No, and no.
The Globe ran a syndicated column today from some columnist talking about landlord rights.
The information he provided was incorrect, on both accounts, at least in Massachusetts.
Question: My tenants pay their rent late almost every month but do not include the late fees as required under their lease.
I regularly contact them in writing asking for late fees and insisting that they pay on time. They respond and acknowledge that they owe the late fees but they always have some excuse and tell me they will have to pay them later.
I contacted a local governmental agency that I was referred to and they advised me that while the late charges I am seeking were very reasonable, I should be glad the tenants even pay the rent and not to pursue the late fees. This office seems to be biased towards the interest of renters and doesn’t seem to provide reasonable advice. I have not taken legal action to collect the late fees but continue to keep a running balance of the accumulated late fees on a ledger that I send to the tenant.
The tenants just informed me that they will be vacating in two months. I would like your advice if you think that I can deduct the late fees that were never paid to me from the tenants’ security deposit when they move.
The answers the guy gave: You can collect late fees, and, you should take the late fees from the security deposit.
Do that in Massachusetts, and you’ll be facing a court, sometime soon, I think.
I believe you cannot use a security deposit for anything except for repairs above and beyond what would be considered “reasonable use”.
You most certainly cannot have late fees included in a lease. You can, but that part of the lease is invalid, no matter if the tenants sign. Rent is not considered “late” until 30 days past due date. You can start eviction proceeds, at day 1, but there’s very little else you can do.
I’m sure others will have more accurate information, so feel free to chime in.
Landlord options for collecting late-payment charges: Tenants can’t ignore unpaid fees forever, By Robert Griswold, The Boston Globe