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Re: Late Fees and Security Deposit

Posted by Cate Goulet on May 21, 2001 at 13:16:56:

In Reply to: Re: Late Fees and Security Deposit posted by gary on May 20, 2001 at 16:51:52:

: Meanwhile, a couple of points: Late fees are allowed only if in the lease, and even then they are not always collectible (though they usually are if they are in your lease).

1. There was a rider to my original lease, signed by me in 1986, which states:
"In the event that said rent is not received by the fifth day
of each month there will be imposed on the tenant a late charge equal
to 5% on the total amount past due."

2. When I returned to school in 1992, I fell behind in rent and a late fee, hitherto unfamiliar to me, was imposed. From 1992 to 2001, I probably paid a total of perhaps 30 months of late fees.

3. It was established that the landlord would not accept the next month's rent until I had paid the previous month's late fee. In some cases this would cause me to be late another month.

4. During this whole time, it was established that as long as the rent was in the office (I frequently dropped it off in person) by the end of the second week of the month, it would be on time. In fact, checks received earlier were not deposited until the middle of the month.

5. In 1997, things got better financially for me and lateness was no longer a problem.

6. I moved from my apartment in 1999, shortly after renewing my lease for another two years. Hopeful that things would work out for me in my new home 50 miles outside the town I had lived in my entire life (okay, the "town" it was NYC, but still the only home I knew), but not sure and definitely wanting an escape hatch, I sublet the apartment to a family friend. I was also hopeful should I not want to return that the friend would be able to take over my lease.

7. My landlord tried to refuse the sublet, saying I had no reason to do it, but finally accepted my reasoning and charged the subtenant 5% (I charged her nothing beyond the rent.) But as he wouldn't accept her checks directly, so as not to establish a precedent apparently, the rental fee was deposited by my subtenant in my account on or just before the first of the month and then I paid by check or electronic check within 2-3 days. The landlord usually received the check from the 4-11th of the month, within the established window.

8. I never received my renewal lease. The landlord said it was mailed to the apartment. He "couldn't help it if my mail wasn't forwarded" to me. The post office forwarded my mail for 6 months, then I renewed the forwarding, but it stopped after 12 months. The landlord definitely had my phone number and address and knew my subtenant. She was very proper and we didn't try anything other than appealing to him to let her stay. She offered to pay full market rate but he wasn't interested.

9. In January 2001, about when I should have received my renewal lease (which I would not nor could not have renewed, as by that time, I didn't plan on returning, but still should have received) my subtenant got an eviction notice and a very loud banging on the door scaring her. The notice said I owed $455 in back late fees. A copy was mailed to my mother, co-guarantor or my 1986 lease. I received no notice of it until I called the office, though they surely had my new address in correspondence and notices I had sent.

10. I had never received any notice of lateness prior to this eviction notice. The landlord claims to have mailed them to me at my apartment address, again "helpless" that the post office didn't forward my mail. Rents on this notice that were declared late were received Feb 8, 2000, March and Nov 14 2000, Dec 11 2000 and Jan 10 2001. All acceptable under the standard established by 13 years of rent-paying. Had I been aware of this change in standard, I would have had my subtenant pay even earlier, but as there was no notice to me whatsoever, and as the landlord continued to accept rent without a word, I wasn't aware there was a problem.

11. My subtenant met with the landlord several times to straighten out the late fee problem and to be shown numerous other apartments by him. She offered to pay the rental late fee but was somehow told that if she just vacated the apartment it wouldn't be a problem.

12. I spoke with the landlord in March about the security fee. I was told that I would receive the entire fee back plus the deposit interest. He assured me this was done many times by him and promised that I would not be penalized for the late fees.

13. I paid the final month's rent and awaited the return of the security deposit. I was still waiting five weeks later when I called the office a second time and spoke with the landlord. Cordial at first, he got very angry and blamed me for subletting, that he should have "had my apartment two years earlier," for being a terrible tenant and having a terrible subtenant who had the gall to want to take over my lease. Previously we had gotten along well enough and he had even leased a basement to me for three years as an art studio.

14. During our phone conversation, the landlord told me that my subtenant had stayed, with his knowledge and permission, an extra week while she waited for the moving van. He said she gave him a check for this week but that he would deduct the money from my security deposit. This statement erroneously led me to believe he had deposited her check but was also penalizing me. Only after I had voice my angry and appalled incredulity did I understand that he had not deposited the subtenant's check as he could not accept her check even though she was moved out. But the damage was done and he was angry, I was upset, and I believe in the heat of this landlord-tenant altercation determined to be spiteful.

15. I received the security deposit a few days later. It had the unknown late fees deducted, contrary to what I had been assured and trusted would be the case.

16. I understand why people withhold the final month rent in lieu of receiving their security deposit. I wish now I had done so as this landlord was untrustworthy but I did not want to jeopardize my subtenant's stay.

: Secondly, if you have been overcharged consistently for the past five years, you can file an overcharge complaint with the DHCR and he may have to pay you triple damages. Or you can sue. Am not sure whether triple damages can be obtained by lawsuit (always better than dealing with the pro-landlord, possibly corrupt, always incompetent DHCR).
: Afraid your post needs to be clarified before specific suggestions can be offered.

Any suggestions are gratefully appreciated. Thank you.

p.s. The subtenant told me she asked other people in the building and no one else had ever paid a late fee.

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