If you have ever lived on a tight budget in New York City, then you might have had a real estate nightmare … or two … or more. While many people fight to be on the famous island of Manhattan, sometimes financial restrictions make finding a decent home extremely difficult. Stories of prewar buildings crumbling away, unfulfilled maintenance requests, broken radiators, sketchy neighbors, bed bug infestations and sleazy landlords are a dime a dozen in the Big Apple.
Unfortunately, once you find yourself in a hole, it’s oftentimes a tough task to dig your way out. Landlords are very aware that they have the power over their tenants in just about any situation. Taking them to court is both time consuming and costly. If you move out, you better hope you have another place lined up. Your absence will not bother your former landlord, because there is always another desperate person looking for a home on the island.
So, when a sad dupe from your building management’s office sends you an email letting you know that a 10% late fee (hundreds of dollars in this case) is being tossed at you for turning in your rent one day late (on their calendar), you are put in a tough situation. It’s your word against theirs. Do you give in and pay up? Hell no. I told the dupe that I was not late and I did not wish to pay this fee. She then replied with this message:
In an email, please provide with details as to why you believe the payment was made on time. This will then be submitted to management for review. You will then be sent a reply back as to whether or not your request has been approved or denied. If your request is denied, there will be no appeal. The decision is final and all balances will be due and payable full.
Dupe (name removed)”
So, naturally, I obliged:
Please forward this message to management.
I believe it was the 5th because I remember the date I wrote the check. I also remember trudging through horrible weather to drop it in a box that God knows WHO has access to. I received an email TWO DAYS LATER saying I hadn’t paid rent. I replied to that email saying I HAD ALREADY PAID, but nobody responded.
Remember, this is the same weather that canceled a lot of flights and the same weather that slowed payment that was owed to me. Hell, some of your tenants probably couldn’t even make it back to town to drop off a rent check to the office. Were you just waiting for a giant snowstorm to rape your tenants of their hard-earned money? I’ve inquired about online billing and direct deposit, but I’ve never been given that option. IT IS 2014 AND YOU DON’T ACCEPT ELECTRONIC PAYMENT??? I guarantee you that there will be less confusion if you allow your tenants to pay this way. You guys are so confused that you got my address wrong when you emailed me to tell me I paid late.
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Are we also forgetting that I am a PAYING CUSTOMER? I have been an absolutely courteous and timely tenant for over three years. I have been paying good money for a building that, quite frankly, is old and constantly falling apart. What have I gotten for that? Well, in 2012, you might remember my co-leaseholder at the time hurt her leg because our floor was left unfinished for months. This left her on crutches when Super Storm Sandy hit us days later. For five days, I assisted her while living without power or heat.
The apology we received? All of a sudden, the floor that had been sitting unfinished for an extended period of time got repaired VERY QUICKLY and all evidence was swept under the rug. Our rent proceeded to go up the next two years, which we have paid every single month since then.
I actually just looked at my lease renewal from 2013 and it does not include ANYTHING about late fees. This means that YOU CANNOT LEGALLY CHARGE ME. I will not be paying this late fee. I do not want to hear about this again. You have wasted too much of my time with this and I refuse to be bullied.
Please take advice from YOUR OWN WEBSITE (which is mysteriously found at NoFeeRentals.com):
‘We strive to treat our tenants with professionalism, courtesy, and respect. Let us grow with you!’
P.S. Any lawyer will tell you a 10% late fee for ‘possibly’ one day puts you on shaky ground, no matter what a lease actually says.”
After that, someone from management got back to me when they felt like it (because they don’t have to be timely like their tenants). We’ll rename her Horrid Wench. She said:
“Dear Mr. Dunlop:
Your email below has been brought to my attention. I understand how frustrating it must be to have the late fee policy imposed. I assure you we do appreciate our ‘PAYING CUSTOMERS’ and will always treat them with respect. I have read Dupe’s email to you and I do not see that she has crossed a professional line. However, I found your email overly aggressive and somewhat threatening. I have asked Dupe not to respond to your email and to direct further correspondence to me. I have waived the late fee as a show of good faith. Please be aware the last day you may pay rent without being subject to a late fee is the last business day before the 6th of the month. If you pay in person during nonbusiness hours, the doorman will timestamp your check or money order to insure you are credited with the proper submittal date.
Thank you for being a long-term customer and we will strive to improve our customer service skills.
It’s a win … for now. Hopefully management pulls itself out of the time period my building was constructed in and joins us in 2014. Only time will tell.