Lubbock judge warning of high late fees after renter charged 35% of their rent a month

Law says reasonable amount is 10-12%
A Lubbock renter lost her home after a landlord billed her 35% of her monthly rent as a late fee.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 9:39 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2023 at 10:22 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock renter lost her home after a landlord billed her 35% of her monthly rent as a late fee. Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 Susan Rowley says this is illegal.

Judge Rowley is warning everyone to pay attention to their lease before signing it. She says there’s a law that landlords can only charge tenants a reasonable amount in late fees. Rowley says the 35% one Lubbock tenant was charged is way more than what’s considered reasonable.

“What the law says is generally, if it’s an apartment complex with more than four units, then 10% of what your monthly rent is is what’s reasonable for a late fee every month,” Rowley said.

On the other hand, Rowley says an apartment with fewer than four bedrooms can charge up to 12% of the monthly rent.

“Let’s say someone has a rent of $1,000 in a big complex, then 10% of that would be $100,” Rowley said.

Late fees can be charged in two ways. Rowley says landlords can ask for the fee all at once, or it can be day by day.

In a few months, the tenant who was being charged 35% would have paid a month’s worth of rent in late fees.

“Had paid, over the last four months, a whole entire months’ worth of rent in late fees and that is just astounding,” Rowley said.

As Rowley oversees hundred of evictions a month, she says to charge a percentage like this is inhumane.

“These people are usually getting evicted because they can’t afford to pay their rent,” Rowley said. “I mean, I see a loved one died, someone’s in the hospital, they’re going through some financial problems.”

If it turns out you were paying too much, she says the landlords will face consequences.

If you feel like you are being overcharged in late fees, Rowley says to do the math and then contact an attorney. If needed, she advises seeing if you can qualify for legal aid.

She says most Lubbock landlords are honest and won’t take advantage of you. Rowley says you should still pay attention to your lease. It should have either a percentage or a dollar amount for late fee charges, and pay close attention to how many days you may be charged.