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, make sure it clearly states how much a late fee will be and whether there's a grace period before 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 is required to wait before charging you a fee.
Which states have laws about late fees or grace periods?
There are a number of states across the U.S. that regulate late fees. Sometimes this is a specific dollar amount, but generally the maximum late fee is calculated as a percentage of the monthly rent. Here are a handful of states laws that address late fees, grace periods, or both:
- Maine: You have a 15-day grace period, and late fees are capped at 4% of the monthly rent.1
- Connecticut: You have a nine-day grace period.2
- Iowa: If your rent is less than $700, you can't 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.3
- New Mexico: Late fees are capped at 10% of the monthly rent for each rent check that is late.4
- North Carolina: You have a grace period of five days and can't be charged more than $15 or 5% of monthly rent (whichever is greater).5
Even if your state has laws that deal with late fees, you should check your lease to see what it says. Your landlord might charge less than the state limit, or offer a grace period even if it's not legally required.
What if my lease doesn't mention late fees?
If your lease doesn't mention late fees at all, then there's a chance you're off the hook. Many states have laws that require the late fee to be included in the lease or it can't be charged at all—even if late fees are technically legal. However, that doesn't mean you won't get in trouble for paying rent late. If you wait long enough, your landlord will be able to send you an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent.
What if my state doesn't cap late fees?
If the laws in your state don't mention late fees, then you should check your lease. Most landlords will state whether there's a grace period and how much they charge for late rent, which may be presented as either a percentage of your monthly 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 information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.