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.

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