I was reading my apartment lease recently, and I came across this sentence in the rent section:
"Lessee will pay a penalty of $16.00 for rent that is unpaid before the 6th of the month."
The paragraph previously states that the due date is the 1st of the month. So with that information, it feels like there are two interpretations, based on what "before the 6th of the month" refers to - the rent, or the paying of the penalty:
- Between the 2nd and 5th (before the 6th), pay a $16 penalty. After that it increases by $1 per day as stated in the next sentence.
- Pay no penalty at all until the 6th. This is the correct meaning (they've told me.)
Is there really any ambiguity? I think maybe if they meant the first meaning it would have said "that is paid before the 6th." Saying "unpaid before the 6th" may be a clear way of stating that you haven't paid until the 6th, at which point the penalty applies.
So is the first interpretation reasonable, or would it be an error on the part of the reader to interpret it that way? Either way I think they should probably reword it.