Tenant John Doe signed a lease in 10/2015 to rent an apartment for a year in Texas. The balance due each month consisted of the apartment rent ($1000) and a monthly fee for water/sewer/garbage collection/pest control ("fee A") which was typically $45. While the amount of "fee A" could vary, it was typically the same each month. Tenants could view the exact amount of "fee A" on a 3rd-party website, if necessary.

The apartments were owned by Company X. Company X did not deliver rent statements to tenants. Tenants were responsible for remebering their rent and also adding that to "Fee A." If necessary, tenants could stop by the apartment office and inquire about their rent balance in person before paying.

In 4/2016, Company X sold apartments to Company Z. Not long thereafter, Company Z began delivering rent balance statements to tenants' mailboxes and also charging tenants an administrative fee of $3 per month to deliver said statements.

Tenant John Doe spoke with the apartment office about the fee. Tenant said he did not believe he should pay fee because he did not agree to pay it in his lease contract. Management replied, "That's how they're doing it now."

Tenant believes that apartment tenants should be notified about such fees in advance and be given the option to opt-out of statement deliveries if they do not wish to pay the corresponding fee.

Question: If the lease contract does not specifically permit such a fee to be charged, does the landlord have the legal right to demand tenants pay an administrative fee for statement deliveries?

  • You said Fee A is not fixed in the contract, is this administrative fee included as part of Fee A? – IllusiveBrian May 2 '16 at 20:52
  • @Namfuak Let's say it is not. – user5431 May 2 '16 at 20:57

No they don't, changes to an existing contract must be agreed by all parties to it. Pay them the rent less $3. When it gets to a significant amount invite them to sue you.

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    Tenant will write a letter to pres. & vice pres. via the registered agent informing them of their illegal activity and that they will refund said fee to all leaseholders and also write all leaseholders a letter acknowledging said fee was "assessed in error" in violation of the lease. Whether pres. & vice pres. would like to give leaseholders the option to receive billing statements for a monthly fee would, of course, be entirely up them as long as both parties agree and a mandatory notice is given in advance. – user5431 May 2 '16 at 23:28
  • What if the landlord starts adding a late fee for failure to pay in full? Then instead of a claimed $18 debt, the tenant could find himself facing a claimed $168 debt, if the fee were for example $25 a month. – phoog May 2 '16 at 23:43
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    @phoog just because someone says you owe them money doesn't mean they do - they would have to prove that in court. – Dale M May 3 '16 at 0:05
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    @DaleM hence my use of the word "claimed." Still, in assessing the likelihood of the claimed creditor pursuing the debt, the size of the debt is a significant factor. It is also significant in evaluating the costs associated with the worst case scenario coming to pass. Maybe the new landlord can legally charge these fees. Don't forget that the landlord holds the tenant's deposit. In that light, your advice is somewhat reckless. It could put someone in a position of having to go to court to try to recover part of the security deposit, which could have been avoided by paying $18. – phoog May 3 '16 at 4:01

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