A late fee? But I paid my rent on time!

Stacey Hopkins pays half a month’s rent after a new owner moves into the building and changes the due date for rent checks. But now she’s being charged a late fee. What’s going on?

Question: My apartment building was purchased by Pangea Real Estate recently. The transition has been a rocky one because I used to pay my rent on the 15th of each month, and Pangea requires rent to be paid on the 1st of each month.

I thought it would be simple to pay a prorated amount for the last month — which I got permission to do from my new building manager — and then start paying the full amount the next month. But the check for my prorated rent has yet to be applied, despite repeated phone calls and emails.

Now, my rent is being flagged as late, with late fees piling up. It’s not late! They just haven’t properly applied the prorated check and straightened out my account.

This is a huge problem not only because they’re ruining my credit (they report to credit bureaus), but because I’m looking for a new apartment and any new landlord is going to be told by the current landlord that my rent has been late.

I’ve spent hours of vacation time going to Pangea’s “zone office” to ask for help, and not getting it. I want the check for the prorated amount of rent for last month to be properly applied to my account. I also want all late fees removed, since my rent was never late. — Stacey Hopkins, Chicago

Answer: Pangea should have accepted the half-month’s check, as it promised it would. It’s not entirely clear to me why it failed to do so. I’ve reviewed the messages between you and the company, and it appears they told you writing a check for half the month would be fine.

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It also appears the check you sent was cashed. What a strange situation. They took your money but charged you a late fee.

Pangea doesn’t post the terms of your rental on its site and the payment options are password-protected. But I’m willing to bet that it doesn’t require you to pay your rent twice when it moves into a building.

Here’s something that might have helped. I notice most of your communications were via text message. I might have tried to get a commitment from the property manager in an email — something you could have forwarded to someone at Pangea (or, if necessary, to a credit reporting agency).

I’d like to think this was a simple accounting error, and one that would have been fixed eventually. But timing was of the essence. You were looking for a new apartment, so you couldn’t wait for this to be resolved.

Our advocacy team contacted Pangea on your behalf. It found your check and rescinded the late fees.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • AJPeabody

    Score one for the good guys. Transitions do lead to slip-ups, but this one was fixed.

  • DChamp56

    And cleared up her credit issues I hope.

  • AAGK

    She deserves damages for any negative credit info. What a horrible rental company- they run to cash the check but can’t locate it for crediting the tenant?! She is wise to move out. Potential renters at this place should be warned that they are dealing with deceptive and/or incompetent management. So glad you got this solved.

  • AAGK

    She didn’t transition though, management did. It had time to report negative info to credit bureaus but not enough time to properly credit her account for the check it immediately cashed. You are more understanding than I am:)

  • Dutchess

    I know this has been resolved BUT there is no mention here if Mrs Hopkins is in a lease, or has it expired and currently on a month to month lease and WHERE she is which is also very important with lease issues. If she’s on a current lease the new owners must honor that existing lease until the expiry. If her lease is expired and she’s on a month to month tenancy, her new landlord must give her at least 30 days notice (possibly more depending on her location) before making changes to rent.

  • Chris Johnson

    I once lived in apartment complex that changed hands one month before the end of my lease and after I had given notice. I filled out paperwork TWICE (once for the old company, once for the new company) indicating my new address and for them to mail me the damage deposit back. It took FOUR MONTHS for my deposit to get back to me, after numerous phone calls back and forth with the new owners, who claimed they never had my new address. I’m certain they did but wanted to see how long they could get away without returning my deposit and enjoy the interest rate float on the deposit until I raised enough hell. It can be a real nightmare when the building you rent in changes ownership and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

  • Bill___A

    Good work!

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    If this cost her any actual cash (like a higher rent at the new place due to the incorrect credit info), there are often landlord/tenant legal clinics at local law schools that take this sort of case pro bono (free) as practice for the students. She might consider talking to them.

  • We shouldn’t even be handling this kind of case. Landlord-tenant law varies by state and sometimes by city, so the Chicago solution to a given situation may not be the Evanston solution.

  • Pegtoo

    She’s choosing to move. I’m sure she’s following the requirements of her lease, whatever they are.

  • Michael Anthony

    Same goes for laws and fees on car rentals, hotels, retailers, and so forth. And as we’ve seen, carrier laws vary per country. It would be a pretty empty site.

  • But because travel is for the most part a national market, the local law fragmentation tends to be hidden in fees, rather than being totally dominant in the way that landlord/tenant law is.

  • AAGK

    Not necessarily. Not every state/city requires 30 days for month to month.

  • The Original Joe S

    Buy an abode. Renting is serfdom.

  • joycexyz

    Does she have the cancelled check?

  • Pedro Thomson

    Probably not the physical paper check, who still gets them from the bank?

  • joycexyz

    I should have said does the bank have the cancelled check. Easy enough to get a copy.

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