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Tenant rights; late fees etc.

Los Angeles, CA |

Thoughts on..:Tenants dont know its illegal for landlords to charge late fees in CA (although should try to not pay rent late), and that landlords must follow very strict rules to keep any portion of a tenants security deposit (CC 1950.5), that it is illegal for a landlord to collect rent when the unit is not habitable pursuant to CC 1942.4 non-habitability can be anything from pests, plumbing issues, non-working windows, not having a deadbolt, not having water or heat, noise from ongoing construction etc), and that it is illegal for a landlord to evict, threaten to evict, intimidate, increase rent, decrease services etc., for improper or retaliatory reasons pursuant to CC 1942.5 and common law.

Also, Orozco v. Casimiro [(2004) 121 Cal.App.4th Supp. 7] identified late fees as "liquidated damages" within the meaning of Civil Code 1671, and declared them to be illegal and void, absent extraordinary circumstances. Civil Code 3302. The following formula is used to calculate late fees in a rental agreement if the landlord has suffered damages by late payment of rent and can prove said damages: Monthly rent / 3650 x number of days late; OR 10% (LEGAL INTEREST RATE) x monthly rent / 365 days.

Attorney Answers 3


Late fees in rental agreements are absolutely illegal unless (1) they reflect the ACTUAL damage to a landlord arising from the late payment (like less than $1.00), AND (2) the landlord and the tenant have actually negotiated this rate.

It is illegal for a landlord to collect rent IF the government has ordered that landlord to make repairs, 35 days have passed and the repair has not been made, the problem was not caused by the tenant and the delay in repair is without good cause.

I'm not sure what your question is.

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You haven't really asked a specific question.

In California, late fees are not per se illegal. There is a difference between liquidated damages vs. penalty. Penalities have never been enforceable in court. The bottom line is that whatever is charged must be a reasonable reimbursement for the landlord's actual damages, and any right to collect late fees must be reflected in the lease or rental agreement.

You are correct that it is illegal for a landlord to collect rent if the premises are uninhabitable. However, uninhabitability is a factual question. Not all inconveniences will arise to the level of uninhabitability.

The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.

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A landlord can charge a late fee to a tenant who doesn't pay rent on time. However, a landlord can do this only if the lease or rental agreement contains a late fee provision. In some communities, late fees are limited by local rent control ordinances.

Late fees must be reasonably related to the costs that your landlord faces as a result of your rent payment being late. A properly set late fee is legally valid. However, a late fee that is so high that it amounts to a penalty is not legally valid.

Moreover, habitability issues can be raised as a defense in unlawful detainer matters.

The opinion provided is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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