Late Fees

Tenant Protections Against Unfair Late Fees

What are late fees?

***During the current COVID-19 State of Emergency, INSTEAD OF CHARGING LATE FEES, a landlord must provide tenants who are unable to make rent with a 15-day notice, and an opportunity to respond with the Declaration of COVID-19 Financial Distress. For more information, please review our COVID-19 Tenant Defense Toolkit***

  • Landlords can charge late fees to a tenant when rent is paid late or if a rent check bounces.
    • This is allowed under the Tenant Relief Act (statewide) and the CDC Moratorium (federal), stating that landlords can charge late fees, penalties, or interest on unpaid rent
      • ONLY IF the late fee policy and amounts are outlined in the lease/rental agreement
    • Some rental agreements or leases allow for a “grace period” which does not charge late fees, but the landlord is not required to do so.
  • Late fees can not be punitive or seen as a penalty for paying rent late. Instead, the fee should reflect a reasonable estimate of the amount that the late payment will cost the landlord per Orozco v. Casimiro 121 Cal.App.4th Supp. 7 (2004).
    • Landlords can charge tenants $25 for a bounced check.
    • Often lease or rental agreement will include specific information about late fees (i.e. percentage of the rent, etc.). If the late fee seems to high, a tenant may ask the landlord to justify the amount or lower the cost.
    • If you believe you have been charged a late fee unfairly, fill out this Unfair Late Fee Sample Letter and turn it in to your landlord as soon as possible.

 

Can I be charged late fees if I am not able to pay my rent due to COVID-19?

  • NO!
  • AB 832, which extends eviction protections until September 30th, 2021, PROHIBITS ALL late fees if you have been COVID-19 impacted and therefore unable to pay your rent on time.

 

Can I be evicted if I am not able to pay my late fees?

  • Under no circumstances may a landlord evict the tenant because of late fees. However, unpaid late fees may be taken out of the security deposit.  
  • NOTE: OUTSIDE of COVID-19 times, landlords must serve a tenant who is late on rent a 3-day eviction notice to "pay or quit" before they can file an eviction suit against the tenant in the courts.

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