dis-incentives/ fines for bad behavior

12 Replies

Ok there are late fees and buyout the lease clauses. We even have a fee associated with a citation for our student rentals but what other fines/fees/disincentives can you enforce? I have a tenant , thankfully she is moving out but she leaves her apartment door open and the door to the building open in the middle of winter. I took that props the door open thing off the door so she can't leave it completely open but we pay the heat and even with me there she still opens her apartment and leaves just the storm door with the main building door open so anyone can walk in. It is a safe area but it is inconsiderate. Can you have a dis-incentive for that kind of stuff? What have people done that works? She is only here another week but in case I get another jerk like this I am wondering what I might be okay to do.

@Colleen F. can you bill back the heat to the tenants? Maybe they would be more "aware" of their heating and cooling usage if they were paying it?

Not possible. Looking into geothermal. The only real bad issue with a tenant on this is with this one woman. I was just wondering if people used any other dis-incentives financial or otherwise to control this type of behavior. I can do something like putting in spring loaded closures but really she leaves her apartment door and the outside door open. That alone is not nice for the adjacent tenant as well as the heat issue. I was just wondering if I got another if I could do something besides cure or quit.

Excessive heat use above XXX will be billed to the tenants. Here even with common heat and power I bill the tenants according to the square footage.

I have pet fees.

Technically I can't fine (usually reserved for government) tenants but I do charge them for behavior that costs me money. You could add a clause called excess energy consumption charge and bill them XX dollars for every time they are found wasting energy (ie propping doors open) but leave it open ended so you get to be the judge. Just document your charges.

We have a number of items for which we charge violation fees. I made a charge form that lists them. Easy for me to check the boxes that apply and bill the tenant. I do this first. If the tenant does not pay up, then I serve a legal notice to comply for both the violation and for not paying the fee. Also, by putting all of the violation fee items on one document, it reminds the tenant of other rules they must remember to follow. Here is the core of that document:

As per the terms of your rental agreement, we are assessing you with the following fees for violation of rental agreement terms. We hate to have to do this. We would much rather you follow the terms of your agreement.

Please review your rental agreement. The following items have a violation fee attached. We have marked the ones that apply to you.

* Rent Late Fee ($50) - Rent not paid or postmarked by the 5th of the month.

* Non-Sufficient Funds Fee ($20) - Check could not be processed by bank.

* Unauthorized Occupant Fee ($50) - Individuals not on the rental agreement are staying in the unit past the period allowed for guests and without the approval of the landlord.

* Unauthorized Pet Fee ($50) - Pets/Animals not on the rental agreement have been in the unit without the approval of the landlord.

* Smoking Penalty Fee ($50) - Smoking in the unit or on the premises by either the tenant or the guests of the tenant.

* Smoke Detector or Carbon Monoxide Detector Tamper Fee - Detection device in the unit has been tampered with and is not functioning (Up to $200). [Note: We could charge up to $200 and we tell the tenant that. Then we charge them only $20. They readily pay because they think they are getting a break.]

* Service Charges ($20) - For each legal notice served related to a violation, such as "notice to comply" or "notice to pay rent or quit."

@Bill S. I like the idea in theory and I have the excessive water in single family would need to look into how you can surcharge heat in a multi in RI. I am not sure how that would stand up in court given it is heat but will give it some thought.

@Marcia Maynard I like the smoke detector one in particular. I also like the concept of giving the fees listed like that. Do you give them a list when they move in with their lease? Might be something I would add to the binder we have in the student rentals.

Thanks @Marcia Maynard , this is great to know, particularly this one:

* Service Charges ($20) - For each legal notice served related to a violation, such as "notice to comply" or "notice to pay rent or quit."

I have this in my lease as a general term under legal fees that the tenant is responsible for when in breach of the lease. I like that it's also called out separately. I have 2 vacancies right now and will put these in the new leases.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :
* Smoke Detector or Carbon Monoxide Detector Tamper Fee - Detection device in the unit has been tampered with and is not functioning (Up to $200). [Note: We could charge up to $200 and we tell the tenant that. Then we charge them only $20. They readily pay because they think they are getting a break.]


Our lease lists tampering with smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors or fire suppression equipment as a fine of up to $250 or immediate termination of the lease at the landlords discretion.

We do this to drive home the fact we do not take this matter lightly.

@Colleen F. The items for which we charge a violation fee are covered in the terms of the rental agreement. But for emphasis, it might be a good to give the tenants a copy of this list too with their move-in packet. Thanks for the idea.

We also have a different letter that we send if they are only late with their rent. We use that one fairly often. It shows the amount of rent due plus the late fee and instructions for paying.

I've toyed with the idea of charging a violation fee of $20 for breaking any of our property rules, but haven't done so. One such breaking of the rules is leaving the exterior door of the shared coin-op laundry room unlocked or worse, leaving it wide open.

For and in consideration of the rents agreed tenant agrees that rents are based upon limited administrative functions in connection with this lease. In the event any additional administrative duties are required to be performed arising out the tenant's failure to comply with the terms of this agreement or in keeping with any ordinance or statute at law, the tenant shall pay an additional administrative fee at the rate of $40.00 per hour, to the nearest half hour, being payable to the owner as compensation for such unforeseen administration. Such fees shall become immediately due upon notice and payable together with the following rents due being made a part of rents then due. In the event no future rents are due, then such fees shall become payable within 5 business days from the date of notice.

If rents weren't paid the lease could be terminated.

My lease detailed the obligations of tenants, like returning trash carts from the curb within 12 hours from pick up. If I had to return the cart the next day, they get a charge. If I had to pick up personal property from the front yard and take it to the back, they get charged. If I got a disturbance call, they may be charged. If the cops show up, they get charged.

This worked very well with college tenants, rarely was a charge ever made. It was a powerful incentive to follow the rules. I stressed too that phone calls to me were not chargeable events. If a neighbor complained, I'd call them and tell them of the issue, they'd ask if they were being charged and I'd say, no, not this time but hold it down. "Oh thank you, we're sorry we will" kids!

The leased was initially made for a property with "funny money" under economic development city financing as the city sold the property. They had financing strings attached with the approval of leases used. The city attorney loved the fact that I had complied with the moderate income rents and had the ability to "fine" tenants for bad behavior and it was approved under HUD guidelines.

Other fees, such as bad check or late fees were addressed as not being subject to administrative fees.

I had no real issues with adult tenants after explaining what type of issues constituted an admin fee, like police calls and trash removal, then they understood why the fees were adopted. Just being fair. :)

@Colleen F. Another thought on this topic... Do you know the reason for your tenant's "open door" behavior? Could it be a cultural reason? In some cultures leaving a door or window open for fresh air, even in winter, is common.

Actually the list of cultures with open window and open door behavior is quite extensive. I've heard this phrase, "Germans need fresh air. Americans need air fresheners.” Russians and Koreans too may open windows and doors in the dead of winter. “Its for ventilation, for good health!” Or tradition..."China has a long history." is often the reason given for a Chinese norm, including open doors and windows.

Some people don't like stagnant air and if the heating system is not forced air with movement and filters, they will make their own air movement by opening doors and windows. Also to prevent window condensation.

Traditions imbedded in culture may not change, even though the circumstances for the origin of the tradition are no longer applicable. For example, in homes historically heated by coal the occupants could avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by opening doors and windows for air exchange. Even with the change to modern heating systems, the tradition of keeping windows and doors open may persist.

Religious belief systems may also call for the opening of a door or window on occasion. Upon death, "Open the window to let the spirit out."

Just some thoughts... this may be deeper than what appears on the surface.

Seems the spirit can just wait at the door and step out as I step in, I think that's what they must have done, that, or they just rode out on the gurney and flew off.

That's not in my lease. :)

I am with you @Bill Gulley the spirit is just going to have to come in with a real tenant or practice coming through walls.

In any case I don't think the reason is religious it is personality related. She is really nosey, needy, and she lacks consideration. I was showing the apartment next door to someone and she had her door open despite my saying an hour before nicely please close your door I don't want prospective tenants to accidentally wander in to your place. I was taking the prospective tenant in and I had to place myself between her and the prospect blocking her entry to the apartment. She kept talking until I nearly shut the door in her face. It took her forever to understand that we don't have hours to talk when we are at the property we have things to do. There is a double wide front door and it was 10 degrees out and she opens it wide and I go out and close it. I say please don't do that you let the heat out and she did shut it but it was never clear why she opened it ( and I don't live there so I can't imagine what she does when I am not around!). In 8 months we have owned the place she has had all her plumbing repaired , I fixed her beeping Verizon box 3 times (no it is not our fire alarm - call Verizon). The rest of the neediness and lack of consideration I get annoyed at and try to manage but the door opening drives me nuts, costs me money, and I don't think is welcome by other tenants. She is older and is buying her own place so now moving out but I am so glad to see her go.

@Marcia Maynard if someone has that belief system and expects to be able to leave the door open they need to be paying their own heat or go to someone more understanding then me. I had a German girl live with us and we cured her of the open window in winter. I appreciate cultural differences but I don't consider it is my responsibility to pay for them. I do appreciate the careful thought you put into that response though.

@Roy N. I am definitely incorporating the smoke detector one. We had a fire alarm heat detector unit that went off and was wire nut bypassed. that I would have charged for. I can't however find a picture that shows it was not this way when we bought the place.

Keep the ideas people have on how to structure fines and convey expectations about behavior coming.

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