Penalty - late payment of rent
In some agreements of financial leases, a penalty is imposed on the lessee in case he delays the payment of rent after the due date. This penalty, if meant to add to the income of the lessor, is not warranted by the Shariah. The reason is that the rent after it becomes due, is a debt payable by the lessee, and is subject to all the rules prescribed for a debt. A monetary charge from a debtor for his late payment is exactly the riba prohibited by the Holy Qur’an. Therefore, the lessor cannot charge an additional amount in case the lessee delays payment of the rent.
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However, in order to avoid the adverse consequences resulting from the misuse of this prohibition, another alternative may be resorted to. The lessee may be asked to undertake that, if he fails to pay rent on its due date, he will pay certain amount to a charity. For this purpose the financier / lessor may maintain a charity fund where such amounts may be credited and disbursed for charitable purposes, including advancing interest-free loans to the needy persons. The amount payable for charitable purposes by the lessee may vary according to the period of default and may be calculated at per cent, per annum basis. The agreement of the lease may contain the following clause for this purpose:
The Lessee hereby undertakes that, if he fails to pay rent at its due date, he shall pay an amount calculated at ....% p.a. to the charity Fund maintained by the Lessor which will be used by the Lessor exclusively for charitable purposes approved by the Shariah and shall in no case form part of the income of the Lessor.
This arrangement, though does not compensate the lessor for his opportunity cost of the period of default, yet it may serve as a strong deterrent for the lessee to pay the rent promptly.
The justification for such undertaking of the lessee, and inability of any penalty or compensation claimed by the lessor for his own benefit is discussed in full in the chapter of murabahah in the present book which may be consulted for details.
Source: Republished with the kind permission of Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani.
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