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Can landlord change terms of lease mid-term for utility late fees?

Federal Way, WA |

My current lease is in effect until Oct. 31, 2013. It states that I have 20 days from when utility bill is issued to pay or it will be considered late. If payment is late, I am responsible for a late fee in the amount of $5.00. New property management company now says they are changing the terms so utility is due with my rent by 5th of the month and if not received I will be charged a $50.00 late fee. Can they change this rule mid-term on a lease?

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Attorney answers 1


You need to review your written agreement to see whether there is a provision allowing the landlord to change due dates and amounts of late fees with proper notice to you. Usually, the notice period is 30 days.

Even if the landlord cannot change the terms, your "current lease is in effect until Oct. 31, 2013", meaning that it is about to expire anyway. If the landlord cannot change the current lease, you can expect that the new terms will be in the newer leases.

Either way, you should plan to pay the bills before they are due to avoid being charged late fees.

Presumably, the landlord can time when to issue the utility bill so that "20 days from when utility bill is issued" and "5th of the month" is the same day.



Of course I realize that when I renew my lease the landlord can make changes at that point and I do try to pay my bills before they are due to avoid late fees. My question came about because of changes this month that were made without my knowledge. My last utility bill was issued July 26 - I received it on July 30. When I tried to pay my $77.00 bill on Aug 12 I was told then that because it was not received with my rent (only 1 day after I received the bill) that they had added a $50 late fee (almost 65% of my bill due). Now they will not accept my payment unless I include the $50 & they are threatening to start adding $10/day more. I am a single mom & right now with back-to-school costs, I am finding it very difficult to find in my budget an extra $50. I am just wondering if they can legally do this.

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