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In Massachusetts, USA,

a landlord cannot charge interest or a penalty on late rent until 30 days after the due date. However, the landlord can begin the eviction process immediately, even if the rent is only one day overdue. The landlord also cannot use a reverse penalty clause to encourage you to pay early. For example, it is illegal for a landlord to reduce the rent by 10% if the rent is paid within the first five days of the month.

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Does this mean that if you pay rent say, five (5) days late, the landlord may charge a late fee as long as it is not actually charged until 30 days after the original due date?

Or must the payment be 30 days overdue to charge a late fee at all?

The wording to me seems to put a restriction on what time the landlord can charge a fee, not what circumstances they may charge under.

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The statute provides that "No lease or other rental agreement shall impose any interest or penalty for failure to pay rent until thirty days after such rent shall have been due." Mass. Gen. Law ch. 186 § 15B(1)(a)(iii). It would seem that if the rent is fully paid before the thirty days are up, there is no longer a "failure to pay rent" and so no late fee to be paid. I have searched and have found no caselaw providing a different interpretation of the issue, but I am not a lawyer and this, of course, is not legal advice.

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Having been a renter in Massachusetts for several years now, this is how it was explained to me:

Let's say that your rent is due on the 1st of the month. If your landlord has not received the money by the due date, they can begin the eviction process immediately. You are still expected to pay the rent that is due, but they cannot add on any additional fees or charges until after 30 days have elapsed. So if you pay your rent on the 5th or 6th day, you can be evicted for failing to pay on time, but you cannot be charged anything beyond the month's rent.

If you pay at all before 30 days have elapsed, you cannot be charged more than the rent.

The use of eviction is at the landlord's discretion. That is, if you don't pay by the first of the month, the landlord doesn't have to evict you. They can choose to accept late rent. However, if they do this and you pay on any day after the due date, you cannot be charged a penalty for it.

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