When to Charge A Late Fee
Richard G. New Jersey
I have a situation with a new student (second month) where I didn’t receive payment on time – I did get paid, but not until March 9th. I clearly stated to the parents that the fees were due by the first, and I even sent out an email reminder the week before. They are refusing to pay the late fee, and say that they are very busy people, etc. and it won’t happen again. We’re sort of at a stand-still right now, so I wanted to get some opinions on what to do. It’s really a shame, because their son is doing very well and is always prepared at class each week. Do I just suspend them until I get the late fee or is this grounds for termination? I do not think that I should just let it go, and I am actually very annoyed that the parents have taken it this far. They are kind of rude to begin with, and never once apologized for being late with their payment. Thanks in advance for your help.
Francis B. Nevada
Did you have a written policy on this? I have it in my written studio policies and then reinforce via email and/or newsletters courtesy reminders and always have in the reminder to please pay on time in order to not incur late fees. In the Foundation Session, as Neil has suggested, we go over the studio policies, particularly the highlights that I feel need extra emphasis. There are two copies of the studio policy one for my files and the other for their reference. I also have them take it home to review carefully and bring back the very next lesson. Both the parent and student sign knowing that they agree to and will adhere to the policies.
Everyone is busy. You will have to make your best judgment. If you say that were clear on the penalty of late payments prior to starting then I would say stick to the policy. I guess you need to decide if you are willing to make exceptions and for who.
One suggestion would be to put in on your whiteboard that “tuition is due today” at lesson.
Mark M. New York
It’s your call.
Technically, sure, it’s grounds for termination.
If you are willing to make an exception because you value this student and you need the business and you are willing to take their word that it was an unusual situation and won’t happen again, you can leave it at that.
If you are willing to make an exception but aren’t willing to leave it at that, you can tell them you’ll make an exception but would at least like an apology, or that you whatever, fill in the blank, whatever it is you choose to do/say/request in order to feel good not terminating but also not merely giving in.
Either way, I would make very clear to them that if you’re making exception, you won’t do so again, and they will be expected to pay a late fee, otherwise they will be terminated.
Robin T. Tennessee
I think I would just try to talk to them and say that you run a business. As with any bill from a business (your mortgage, car payment, credit card) they will assess a late fee if the payment is not received on time. Then, you reiterate to them that you also have bills that you must pay for your business (licensing fees, education fees, rent, etc.) and if payment is not received for your services, it makes YOU have to pay late fees for the things that you have to incur to continue teaching their son. Then, maybe talk about some options that are available to them to ensure that they don’t pay late again (do you offer credit card payment options, invite them to put you on their ONLINE BILLING SCHEDULE if they utilize that, etc.)
After that, depending on how they respond, I would use your own judgment in forcing the issue of the late fee or not. If you want to say, “Since this is the first instance, I am willing to waive the fee, but in the future…” that is your decision. If you want to stand your ground and are willing to accept that they may pull their son, then that is what you do. But, either way, you do need to have a discussion with them (if you haven’t already) to show them the inconvenience that it puts YOU in when they can’t pay their bill in a timely manner.
Carrie L. Michigan
I’ll be honest in that I’ve had issues such as these and I’ve allowed them to just not pay the late fee. What happens is that they don’t take you seriously and then it continues and will continue into other areas that they feel they don’t have to listen to you for.
You could perhaps compromise and tell them that the first time you’ll waive it, but the next they’ll get the fee.
Cheryl G. Pennsylvania
I have also been “wishy washy” on late fees, but one thing I have asked when people are late is that they can avoid the late fee if they pay for the current month and the following month. sometimes people are happy to do that. It’s one less thing to think about. I also give a 3% discount if people pay for 3 or more months at a time. These days, 3% is a lot
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I agree with the advice thus far – waiving it the first time, with the understanding that you will not be able to waive it again. I have found that since I starting really enforcing my late fee policy a few years ago, people will make a special trip just to drop off a check on the day it is due in order to avoid it. I still get a few late payments now and then, but they always pay the late fee.
Thanks so much for all of the advice and suggestions – I really appreciate it!
I think I know what I need to do, but it’s just a very uncomfortable situation to deal with for me The more that I think about it, if it was me, I would just pay the late fee.
A little more info – I did give them my studio rules document which clearly states the late fee rule, and it’s also on the enrollment form that they signed. They aren’t really arguing about the rule, just that I should make an exception for them. You’d think that they might say please, or be nice or apologetic about it, but no. They almost seem to think that they deserve not to pay it, and somehow I am the one at fault here. They are definitely not the type of people that I want to be dealing with in my everyday life.
Victoria S. California
If you have the late fee stated in your studio policies and they have signed a copy of the policies (I keep a copy on hand), then simply remind them that they have agreed to this business policy and you require they meet their obligation if they wish to continue with your studio. They will disrespect you in this and many other ways if you don’t. I had this happen recently with an adult student who has left my studio for the second time. I will not be taking him back and I will not be lax in my enforcement of my policies again!!!!
I write across the top of my white board the week before the last week of class for the month that the next month’s tuition is due at the next lesson and to please feel free to postdate checks. I point this out to them at the beginning of class and joke about this enabling them to avoid the ‘dreaded late fee’, and I no longer have a problem.
I’ve had a similar experience. My student was doing great in the lesson, however, his mother, EVERY month, complained about the cost of lessons and then because she always paid late, complained about the late fee… because she did pay the late fee each time, I didn’t terminate the lessons. However, she eventually pulled her son out of lessons because she couldn’t really afford it. This all worked out for the better. My advice is to nip it in the bud. Not paying on time shows a lack of respect for you. If they refuse to pay the late fee (and it’s clearly stated in your policies), then you can refuse to teach their child until the late fee is paid.
We teach people how to treat us…