Push Owner to Get Tech Savvy About Rent Payments
Some owners, especially smaller ones, are uncomfortable with technology and resistant to letting you pay your rent via direct deposit. And an owner may argue that the rent, however you pay it, is due on a certain date. If your rent payment isn't on time—even if that lateness results from a third-party error like late mail delivery—the owner may argue that it should be permitted to impose a late fee to encourage you to pay on time in the future.
However, there is a tenant-friendly compromise that allows you to avoid late fees due to outside errors. Link your late fees to the direct deposit. That is, agree to pay late fees only if the owner agrees to let you pay your rent via direct deposit. This compromise benefits both you and the owner; the owner wants you to pay your rent on time, and you want the assurance that if you make the effort to do so you won't be charged. After all, the purpose of a late fee is to penalize you for failing to do so. And the owner can help ensure that your rent payments are timely by allowing you to make them through direct deposit. In return, you get the right to pay your rent using a reliable and efficient method.
To use this compromise, add language to the lease allowing the owner to impose a late fee on you only if it allows you to pay your rent via direct deposit. Make sure that your language says the owner agrees to not only accept your rent payments via direct deposit, but also to assist you in doing so. It's important to include that point because you'll need key information from the owner, such as its bank account number, to set up direct deposit payments. Without this language, the owner could subvert your right to use direct deposit by withholding such information. Ask your attorney about using this language in your lease:
Model Lease Language
Provided Landlord agrees and cooperates with Tenant to accept Tenant's Rent payments by wire transfer, Landlord may, at Landlord's sole discretion, impose a one-time per month late charge of [insert %, e.g., five percent (5%)] of the amount due Landlord should Tenant delay beyond [insert #, e.g., five] days after the due date for payment of Rent due Landlord under any article or provision of this Lease. Said late charge shall be billed as Rent and shall be due and payable upon submission of said Rent bill.