North Carolina law limits the fees your landlord can charge you when you pay the rent late. The state spells out the rules in Chapter 42 of the general statutes. To charge you a late fee, the landlord must document the fee in the lease, along with the deadline for when your check is due. The landlord can charge less than state law allows, but not more.
Rules for Fees
A landlord can't charge you a late fee until five days after the rent is due. He also can't charge you a per-day fee if you still don't pay. Instead, he's allowed to apply just one fee for each late rent check. With a monthly rental, the maximum fee is $15 or 5 percent of the rent, whichever is greater. For a weekly rental, the limit is the greater of $4 or 5 percent of the rent.
If you pay for water and sewer services, the landlord can't charge you a late fee if that bill is paid late. It's also against the law for the landlord to deduct late payments from the next rent check, which could put you in default for that month too. If you receive a rent subsidy from the government, the 5 percent maximum refers to what you actually pay, not the portion of the rent the government takes care of.
If you pay late, a North Carolina landlord can file a court complaint to either evict you or collect the money owed. State law says he's entitled to bill you $15 or 5 percent of the rent, whichever is greater, for the costs of filing. If he wins in court, he can charge you a court-appearance fee equal to 10 percent of the rent, but he must pick one or the other fee, not both. The fees must be written into the lease.
Pay or Go
If you're even one day late, the landlord can demand you pay or leave the rental. You have 10 days after that before she can file an eviction complaint. If you pay the rent and any added fees before the deadline is up, you get to stay in your home. The landlord cannot add any fees beyond the ones allowed by state law, though she can bill you for reasonable legal expenses.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.