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I know, "pay your bills deadbeat" and I did...1 day late. I have had an account at this utility for over 3 years and have never been late. My bill is a fixed $37/month (rental townhouse community), which I think is absurd for 1 person, but that is beside the point. Anyways, I was out of town and dropped off my check the day after it was due. I just got my new bill today and there is a $50 past due charge tacked on. I was under the impression that there was a law out there that said late fees could not exceed a certain percentage of the bill, but I am probably just dreaming. IMO, a 133% late fee seems ridiculous, especially for an account in good standing. I will be calling them tomorrow to see if there is anything they can do. Otherwise, I will chalk this up as a stupid lesson.

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...but not too old.

marketingmike (Nov. 10, 2009 @ 6:20p) |

is it in the TOS? If yes, then it's pretty much legal.

timmers (Nov. 10, 2009 @ 11:08p) |

Some progressive laws state that late fees have to be close to actual damages. If that applies to you, sue them and see... (more)

scrouds (Nov. 11, 2009 @ 9:43a) |

Quick Summary is created and edited by users like you... Add FAQ's, Links and other Relevant Information by clicking the edit button in the lower right hand corner of this message.
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Just threaten to cancel and change water companies. Oh wait the government gave them a monopoly. Nevermind, free markets aren't all they are cracked up to be. Pay your bills deadbeat.

Don't know about the legality of the charge, but have you tried contacting the utility, explaining the situation and asking if they can waive the fee this one time given your good payment history and the fact your payment was one day late. Granted you might not get as far with this approach as with a CC, cell, or other company in a competitive industry, but it would be my first step before trying to do anything else.

Also, might want to set up an automatic bill payment in the future.

Most likely it is absolutely legal.

Call & plead.

If you're late on your credit card you can be charged a lot.

one2gofst said: Don't know about the legality of the charge, but have you tried contacting the utility, explaining the situation and asking if they can waive the fee this one time given your good payment history and the fact your payment was one day late. Granted you might not get as far with this approach as with a CC, cell, or other company in a competitive industry, but it would be my first step before trying to do anything else.

Also, might want to set up an automatic bill payment in the future.


I will be calling them tomorrow. All my other bills are set up on automatic withdraws, except for this one. When I first signed up, they did not offer automatic withdraw, your only option was to mail or drop off a check. I will definitely check back with them for that option or see what my options for auto bill pay are. I'll admit I was a day late and I will gladly pay a late fee, but 50 freakin' dollars? FML

If it is a utility company, they are probably regulated by some govt. agency. Complain to them (assuming they approved a hefty late charge to begin with).

If it is a bill from the city, might be worth looking into any local ordinance that addresses this, but chances are you may be SOL.

When I first signed up, they did not offer automatic withdraw, your only option was to mail or drop off a check.

Almost all banks offer an option where you can mail a check; it would work exceptionally well when the bill doesn't change.

Some companies use a flat late fee structure -- regardless of the amount due. Just try talking to them and see if they help or waive it....

BMRisko said: I know, "pay your bills deadbeat" and I did...1 day late.

Pay your bills deadbeat....ON TIME!

LOL!!

J/K

Cheapoking said: BMRisko said: I know, "pay your bills deadbeat" and I did...1 day late.

Pay your bills deadbeat....ON TIME!

LOL!!

J/K


LOL, yea yea...I fully expected to pay a late fee, just not $50!

OP. You left out a critical detail. Are you paying the utility directly or some kind of condo association? What date is on the check? Does the bill say it was due by 5pm, or not specify at all?

lonestarguy said: OP. You left out a critical detail. Are you paying the utility directly or some kind of condo association? What date is on the check? Does the bill say it was due by 5pm, or not specify at all?

I pay the utility directly, but everyone in the complex has a flat rate. I know people who own houses in the area and pay less than half of what I do for water, so I think something funky is going on there, but that is another dilemma all together.

Date on the check is 11/1...bill was due 10/30, which is a Saturday and they are only open M-F. I dropped it off Monday (11/2, but first business day past the due date) when I got back in town. Bill specifies "bill due in office by final due date or in the night deposit box by 8am the next business day". I dropped it off after 8am, so I'll admit that it was late. There is obviously no grace period, as I discovered...

tripleB said: Just threaten to cancel and change water companies. Oh wait the government gave them a monopoly. Nevermind, free markets aren't all they are cracked up to be. Pay your bills deadbeat.

Why in the world, I would want two water companies running pipes in my areas? This is one type of monopoly that I guess I wouldn't mind.

dropped off my check the day after it was due

$50 late fee

in the real world, we call this $50 worth of experience. if you want to get fancy, categorize it as "wisdom"

It depends if it is the town or a utility. If it is the town, most likely you are sol--you can still beg; if it is a utility, you can try beg, debate and threaten them.

I think late fees may be categorized in some contracts as liquidated damages. Liquidated damages represent a precalculated estimation of damages for a specific breach, and may be an unenforceable penalty if they don't correlate to the damage. In this case, a $50 late fee for being one day late would seem to be an unenforceable penalty. Worth it to fight about it in court -- doubtful (unless someone makes it a class action).

It is a utility, but they seem to be in bed w/ the county in some way or another (I'm not too versed on all the agreements, etc). However, there seems to be a lot of "bad blood" and upset people with regards to work bids, crazy fees tacked onto bills to fund sewer replacements in different parts of the county, etc. All of this seems unrelated, just interesting...

bigdaddycincinnati said: I think late fees may be categorized in some contracts as liquidated damages. Liquidated damages represent a precalculated estimation of damages for a specific breach, and may be an unenforceable penalty if they don't correlate to the damage. In this case, a $50 late fee for being one day late would seem to be an unenforceable penalty. Worth it to fight about it in court -- doubtful (unless someone makes it a class action).

I just read through my contract and there is no mention of how late fees are calculated...or for what it is worth, no mention of any fees. Obviously these are probably on file at the office.

The contract does say that the utility adheres to existing laws established under the state of TN. I know metro Nashville late fees on their water utility (just from research) are ~10% of the late bill. $50 just seems astronomical on a $37 bill, but I guess that's a hard lesson if they won't reverse it.

Sometimes calling and speaking to a person politely and nicely really helps in these types of mistake situations. If you are the least bit rude you will not succeed. If you bring up how unfair your bill is you will not win either. Speaking from experience, telling them real or fake anecdotal stories about problems in your life makes it seem more personal and can help the desired outcome if you have a normal person (not call center in another country) on the other end.
You: I'm calling because I got a late fee on my account.
Them: You paid your bill late.
You: I am so sorry. I was going to pay on Friday but I had a relative that unexpectedly needed to go to the hospital. My weekend was a real mess. Is there anyway to waive or reduce the fee? Again I understand it was my fault, but I appreciate anything you can do to help me out.
Them: Sir, as a one time courtesy we can waive the fee. Please remember to pay on time.
You: Thank you so much. I appreciate your understanding.

"Date on the check is 11/1...bill was due 10/30, which is a Saturday and they are only open M-F"

I always date checks the due date or before, regardless of when sent.

There may be some local rules as to what they are allowed to charge. Ask them why the fee is so high, what the county charges, but first note that you have paid your bill on time for years and ask them to waive the fee.

I think your best bet is to ask them to look at your payment history to this point and ask if it is satisfactory. Since it is, ask them to waive the fee because of a one-time error due to being out of time and forgetting.

One other thing to do is automate payments (if there's no fee) or use Billpay.

tripleB said: Just threaten to cancel and change water companies. Oh wait the government gave them a monopoly. Nevermind, free markets aren't all they are cracked up to be. Pay your bills deadbeat.

A deadbeat is someone that actually pays their bills on time.

Dig a well and provide your own water. Then tell the water company to cancel your service and turn off the spigot. No more late fees!

Well I called them and they would not budge on the late fee saying that once it has been issued, nothing can be done to reverse it or credit your account. They are also claiming they waived a late fee last month (and she admitted they mailed the bills late FWIW), but they failed to inform me about this, so as far as I was aware, my account was current, since all my payment schedules reflect this. I know my bill last month was not late as I still have the bill stub, cashed check and completed task in my phone of when I physically dropped the check off to their office. The CSR sounded very apologetic, but that doesn't help me. I guess I'll chalk this up as an expensive lesson and set up automatic billpay for this bill. I feel like such a deadbeat begging to have a late fee removed.

Better idea: do like people do with self-generated electricity and pump the well water back in the system for others to use and start charging the water company!

osaka75 said: Better idea: do like people do with self-generated electricity and pump the well water back in the system for others to use and start charging the water company!

Since my bill is a flat rate, I have considered making some sort of hydro-electric generator and sticking it on my back patio. I might as well get my $37 worth...I'm sure the families of 4 in this complex use a lot more than $37 worth of water! My electric bill is less than my water bill, which is crazy!

Now to round up 5000 pennies...

BMRisko said: Well I called them and they would not budge on the late fee saying that once it has been issued, nothing can be done to reverse it or credit your account. They are also claiming they waived a late fee last month
Well, sounds like they were completely honest with you. I guess it's impossible for them to reverse a late fee. If only there were some sort of precedent that proved that they could do that...

PMonkeyDishwasher said: BMRisko said: Well I called them and they would not budge on the late fee saying that once it has been issued, nothing can be done to reverse it or credit your account. They are also claiming they waived a late fee last month
Well, sounds like they were completely honest with you. I guess it's impossible for them to reverse a late fee. If only there were some sort of precedent that proved that they could do that...


Exactly! I think she was trying to say they can't waive a 2nd one...problem is now I am contesting the first one and I haven't been successful in getting very far yet.

flat rate, eh? meaning you pay $37 regardless of how much you use?

"leaky" shower/tub faucets that drip around 1gpm sound about right at your place for the next month or two.

I would file a complaint with the public service commission in your state.

there are 3 bills i refuse to have auto-pay/bill for: car loan, comcast, and gas/water/electric

gas/water/electric actually charges about $2 for this!! It's cheaper using a stamp.

car loan only offers it if you pay for it using a checking/savings account with them.

and why would anyone use auto-bill with comcast when their statements are wrong every month?!?

mrredskin said: and why would anyone use auto-bill with comcast when their statements are wrong every month?!?

That was the other one I never had drafted...since they F'ed up so much.

Yup, $37 flat rate...$1.xx for taxes, $18.xx for a flat-rate usage, $9.xx for the sewer in our town and $8 for the sewer project in the next town over. Why I am funding sewer replacement in another town, I have no f'in clue. Reference earlier in the post for that clusterf***.

I am half tempted to ask utility to perform a usage assessment on my unit to see just how much water I really use and alter my bill to reflect the actual usage. I seriously doubt they would do that though...

1. Leave your bath water running all month long
2. ...
3. Profit!

Sorry I can't reply to your question about legality but I have somewhat similar situation with my water co-op. Except they donít send out bills, they let their bank do it. We donít pay the co-op, we write a check out to the bank. We gave up trying to talk to these ĎGomersí about bills being mailed late leading to late payments leading to late charges. We now keep a payment on account. They take it when they want (sometimes very close to the date that the bill is mailed) and we just pump up the account for the next time.

Sure, we donít draw interest on what is overpaid, but one late charge wiped out 75 years of interest on that money (at 1% interest).

(Iíve since found better, but it made for a more spectacular statement.)

kensat30 said: 1. Leave your bath water running all month long
2. ...
3. Profit!

Do car washes for fees. Open up a small water park (kiddie pools are for all ages) and charge fees. For the older crowd, wet t-shirt contests. If it's cold enough, dig a shallow pool and freeze water for ice skating and charge fees.

Try the begging in writing. Tell them you are always on time and because of unforeseen circumstances the payment got delayed. It might help, it may not. No harm trying. I know I had done it once with my credit card companies (AMEX and Discover) and they had waived their fees.

Tell them to be more consumer friendly. You paid your bill for years and did not want to pay gouging late fees. Hoe did they decide on an amount that is more than your bill for being a couple days late?

Ask them if it' state regulated. That seems far too high a late fee.

Wow @ $37/month. My water/sewer bill is like $35/quarter (3 months).
Since it is a flat fee per month, you might as well purify the water and start your own water bottling company out of your townhouse. You may actually generate more profit than the water company considering how much bottled water cost these days.

redina said: For the older crowd, wet t-shirt contests.

...but not too old.

Skipping 2 Messages...
Some progressive laws state that late fees have to be close to actual damages. If that applies to you, sue them and see them try to prove $50 in damages.



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