Information about whether your landlord charges late fees and how much they charge will be in your lease. Some landlords give grace periods for late rent. This means that you have some extra time after the rent due date to pay your rent without being charged a late fee. This information will be in your lease, too.
The landlord cannot collect a late fee unless:
1. it is written in your lease (if you don’t have a written lease, the landlord can’t charge you a late fee) AND
2. it has been at least 2 full days after the rent was due (if your rent was due on the 1st, the late fee cannot be charged until the 4th day of the month).
Check out this video to learn more about late fees:
Is there a limit on how much the landlord can collect?
Your landlord should not charge you more than the percentages of your rent listed below, depending on your living situation:
- If you live in a building with 4 or less units, they can’t collect more than 12% of your rent.
TIP: You can calculate this amount by multiplying your rent by 0.12. For example, if your rent is $1,000 the math is: $1,000 X 0.12 = $120. The landlord wouldn’t be able to collect a late fee of more than $120.
- If you live in a building with more than 4 units, they can’t collect more than 10% of the rent. In this situation, you would multiply your rent by 0.10 to get the maximum late fee amount.
While the landlord may legally charge you more than these amounts if they can show that you caused them greater “reasonable liquidated damages,” you may have a better case against them if you sue them in court for charging you too much and they charged more than the 12% or 10% amounts.
What can I do if I think the landlord collected more than allowed as a late fee?
If a landlord collected a late fee when it wasn’t in your lease or if the landlord collected a fee in excess of the limits, the landlord is liable to you for $100 + 3x the late fee the landlord collected plus any attorney fees your attorney charges. You might have to take them to court to get this amount of money, but you could send a demand letter explaining your rights and convince the landlord to reduce your late fee.
Can I get a late fee for not paying a late fee?
If the lease allows the landlord to decide how to apply any payments, the landlord can apply your rent payment to a late fee, making your rent late for the next month.
Here’s an example:
- Your rent was due on May 1st for $1,000.
- You paid $1,000 on May 16th, but the landlord charged you a $20 late fee.
- You didn’t pay the $20 late fee.
- You paid your $1,000 rent on time on June 1st, but the landlord applied $20 of that to the late fee from May, which means that the landlord only counted $980 to your rent for June, making your rent late for June, as well.
The law is not on your side here. If you’re angry about this, call your legislator, and tell them about it. This issue is part of Texas Housers’ advocacy agenda for the 2021 legislative session. You can follow our progress on this by signing up for the Housers Newsletter.
Can a landlord lock me out for not paying late fees?
No, only for not paying rent (and only if it says in your lease that the landlord may do this). For more on lockouts, see Lockouts.
Can a landlord take my things if I don’t pay late fees?
No, a landlord’s lien is only enforceable for unpaid rent that is due (and only if it’s written into your lease).
Can the landlord evict me for not paying late fees?
Yes, if the lease requires payment of late fees and says that tenants may be evicted for violating the terms of the lease.
You can also be evicted even if you do pay late fees, but you pay your rent late. See this video from the City of Waco. If you think you’ll be late on rent try to make an agreement with the landlord in writing. If your landlord has a pattern of accepting late rent, you may be able to prove in court that they shouldn’t evict you, but this is difficult if the lease says that the landlord may accept late payments without waiving the right to timely payments in the future. It is best to figure out a way to pay your late fees, make a payment plan with your landlord, or negotiate some reduced amount.