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In a letter I received when moving into a new apartment (which mostly covered standard move-in logistics) my landlord wrote that there would be a late fee imposed if rent was received more than 5 days late. In MA, it is illegal to charge these fees.

Of course, this statement about late fees was not in the lease agreement (I wouldn't have signed if it was!) and has only been mentioned once in this letter.

Should I be worried that this could be used against me to actually charge a late fee (by being considered a contract I implicitly accept by moving in)? Is there any legal reason for me to bring this up and get the landlord to formally acknowledge that they will not in fact charge illegal late fees?

  • It might be a different question, but is it illegal for them to say that they will charge a late fee, when doing so would be illegal? – jhch Sep 3 '19 at 21:14
  • An answer to this question says that 'it's legal to be wrong', and the circumstances are somewhat similar. Just because they say they will do something, doesn't mean that actually will. It's not illegal to say that they'll do something, just illegal to actually do it. Your landlord writing about this fee is likely to be little more than an intimidation tactic imo. – brhans Sep 3 '19 at 21:58
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If it's not in the lease agreement, then you did not agree to it. Even in the absence of the law prohibiting the late fee, the landlord would not be able to impose it because it is not in the lease.

It is of course up to you whether you want to test it. It may be more trouble than it is worth. Then again, it's probably not worth the landlord's trouble to begin eviction proceedings over a late fee.

Paying late and refusing to pay the fee would probably sour your relationship with the landlord, which is usually something you want to avoid. If you do pay late at some point, you may want to point out to the landlord the relevant provision of Massachusetts law. The matter would probably end there: either the landlord doesn't know about it, or the landlord is hoping that you don't know about it. Pointing it out in a polite manner will inform the landlord of the law and that you are acquainted with the law. Unless the landlord is quite unreasonable, that should take care of it.

Whether there is any law prohibiting landlords from announcing an intention to take a prohibited action is indeed a different question.

Is there any legal reason for me to bring this up and get the landlord to formally acknowledge that they will not in fact charge illegal late fees?

No. You have a contract with the landlord that already says you are going to move in. He cannot modify that contract simply by sending you a letter.

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