Nearly 31 percent of Port Canaveral companies don't pay rent on time

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CAPE CANVERAL, Fla. - On Wednesday, commissioners approved tougher penalties for companies leasing space at Port Canaveral that don't pay their rent on time.

But Channel 9's Melonie Holt learned not everyone will be held accountable in the same way.

Businesses already operating at the port have binding lease agreements, so the new rules will only apply to new businesses.

But that doesn't mean current tenants won't be asked for the rent, officials said.

Port Canaveral CEO John Walsh said the late payments are a trend they're trying to break.

"Sometimes it takes the landlord saying, 'I'm not going to take it anymore,'" said Walsh.

Port officials said the largest defaulter is Bluewater Terminals. They said the company owes in excess of $450,000, and the port hopes to collect about 75 percent of that amount.

There's also a sizable lease dispute involving another client, Ambassador Services.

In all, about 31 percent of the port's tenants aren't paying on time.

"The longer; the more delinquent they are, the more difficult it is for them to come up with the money," said Canaveral Port Authority vice chairman Jerry Allender.

Officials said the late payments create potential cash flow problems for the port, which is why commissioners approved some new rules moving forward.

Tenants will have a 10-day grace period. If rent is still not received by the 15th of the month, a tenant will receive a 30-day notice with a warning that they could be placed on a future agenda for lease termination.

The tenant could also be reported to a credit bureau.

"If someone's taking up space, not paying rent, not generating economic impact for the region, we have to change that," said Walsh.

The port will continue to charge interest on unpaid rent, and commissioners are also looking into ways to increase late fees.