The information contained on this web page does not constitute legal advice and must not be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer qualified to give advice on legal issues pertaining to housing. For more, visit our page on Finding a lawyer.
This information pertains only to tenants living in New York City.
Many of your rights depend on the type of housing you live in or your type of tenancy. You may be subject to different laws and have different sets of rights than even neighbors in your own building. Learn which rights and responsibilities apply to you.
If you are a rent-stabilized tenant and the first lease (the one you signed when you first moved in) allows late fees, the landlord can charge them. The late fee cannot be greater than 5% or $50, whichever is less. The landlord cannot add in late fees to renewal leases later if the initial lease didn’t allow for them. (It is a general rule that renewal leases must be on the same “terms and conditions” as the initial lease. See more about rent-stabilized lease renewals)
If you are an unregulated (market-rate) tenant with a lease, the late fee provision must be in the lease. The late fee can not be greater than 5% or $50 which ever is less. If there was not a late fee in your first lease or most recent lease, your landlord can add one at the next renewal.
If you are a tenant in public housing (NYCHA), late fees are not permitted. Many other subsidy programs also do not allow late fees.
There is no late fee indicated in my lease, but my landlord has added a late fee to my rent bill. What should I do?
Your landlord is only entitled to collect a late fee if that fee is outlined in your lease. If your landlord is improperly charging you a late fee on your rent bill, you may want to write “for rent only” on the memo line of your monthly rent check or money order so that your landlord doesn’t credit your payment to the late fees and then claim that you owe additional rent. You also may want to write a letter reminding your landlord that your lease does not permit a late fee, send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of your letter and your proof of mailing.
You cannot sued for late fees in Housing Court as part of a nonpayment eviction.
Be warned that chronic late payment of rent can be the basis of a holdover eviction. (Your landlord can claim that you are a nuisance because you have constantly paid your rent late. You can be sued by your landlord on these grounds even if you are not late or behind in the rent at the point when the court case begins.) Avoid being a defendant in such a case by making on-time rent payments.
My landlord attached a lease rider (or asked me to sign a rider) to my renewal agreeing to a late-fee. Do I have to sign this?
If you are a rent-stabilized tenant, your renewal lease offer must keep the same terms and conditions as the expiring lease unless a change is necessary to comply with a specific law or regulation. In many cases, the easiest thing to do if your landlord attaches a rider calling for a late-fee is to sign the renewal lease form and return that without signing or returning the lease rider at all. When doing so, you may wish to remind your landlord in writing that you are entitled to renew your lease under the same terms and conditions, and are not obligated to sign this type of rider. See more about rent-stabilized lease renewals.
If your apartment is not rent-regulated (if it is market-rate) you may need to re-negotiate the terms when you renew your lease. You are not entitled by law to a lease that contains the same provisions as your previous lease. See more about market-rate lease renewals