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.
- 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
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?
- 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.