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LawTalk
LawTalk, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
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Experience:  I have handled Real Estate and Landlord Tenant matters for more than two decades.
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In tenants rental agreement ( state) a late rent fee applies

Customer Question

In tenants rental agreement (Washington state) a late rent fee applies per day. Tenants owe late rent fees from last month, and have refused to pay for it. Do late fees accrue as long as the rent (and all late rent fees) has not being paid in its entirety? If it accrues, is it for the whole month?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.

Good afternoon,

I'm Doug, and I'm sorry to hear of the confusion. My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

While WA law allows a landlord to assess a late fee for unpaid rent and unpaid late fees, a daily late fee is not allowed if the cumulative late fee for that month exceeds 20% of the monthly rent. The late fee allowed by statute is charged by the month, and in the case where a tenant does not pay rent for 2 consecutive months a late fee will not be allowed to be charged more than one time for the first month.

The late fee allowed under the statute is limited to the greater of $20 or 20% of the monthly rental charge.

So as an example, if the tenant pays rent of $800 per month and has not paid either August's rent or September's rent, then a late fee of a maximum of $160 for September and $160 for September may be charged. Here is the specific law:

RCW 19.150.150

Late fees.

Any late fee charged by the owner shall be provided for in the rental agreement. No late fee shall be collected unless it is written in the rental agreement or as an addendum to such agreement. An owner may impose a reasonable late fee for each month an occupant does not pay rent when due. A late fee of twenty dollars or twenty percent of the monthly rental amount, whichever is greater, for each late rental payment shall be deemed reasonable, and shall not constitute a penalty.

You may reply back to me using the Reply link and I will be happy to continue to assist you until I am able to address your concerns, to your satisfaction.

Please remember to rate my service to you so that I can be compensated for helping you. Thank you in advance.

I wish you and yours the best in 2015,

Doug

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I believe that late fees are part of the rent, so even though tenants have paid all the rent last month except for the late fees, the late fees are still considered rent and therefore will incur late rent fees for a total of what the law permits i.e. 20-% of the monthly rent charge. Is that correct?
Expert:  LawTalk replied 1 year ago.

Good afternoon,

Late fees are deemed rent and if unpaid mean that the next rent payment is insufficient (if only rent is paid and not the late fees from the previous month) and another late fee may be charged for that month.

When determining what you may take 20% of as a late fee, it is only the base rent---and not a late fee from the previous month plus the base rent. So, if the rent is $800 per month, the greatest late charge that may be asserted is $160 (20%) per month for each month the rent is late/unpaid.

You may reply back to me using the Reply link and I will be happy to continue to assist you until I am able to address your concerns, to your satisfaction.

Kindly, remember to rate my service to you. That is how I am credited for assisting you.

I wish you and yours the best in 2015,

Doug

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