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Can one be evicted for late fees?

Los Angeles, CA |

I live in CA. I was behind in my rent in Aug, caught up, unlawful detainer dropped. (also on my receipt) Sept and Oct paid in full and on time. The owners wanted me to pay the late fees and attorney fees in 2 payments in Oct and Nov for costs incurred in August. (total $754.50) When I paid my Oct rent, by cashier check, they wrote on the receipt that $377.25 would be applied to the late fee for Aug and I only paid $1417.75 on Oct rent, and owe. Was served a 3 day notice to pay $377.25. In Sept, CA Consumer Affairs (DCA) told me the late fees were excessive (10% plus $5. per day) and my complaint is under investigation. I did not pay the additional $377.25 by the end of the 3 day notice.. Can they legally say I owe rent, which is what the 3 day notice had?

Other parts of my complaint included the owners not fixing items. The L.A.Dept of Health was out on Oct 5, told the manager to make repairs in my apartment (toilets, plastering and painting) from a leak problem in Feb. The 3 day notice was served after this mandate. There is a forfeiture of agreement so based on the owners history, I feel this is also a way to not comply with repairs. They have a $2000 security deposit of mine. One woman manages another of their buildings and handles the legal aspects. She has issues with me, so I don't know the owners.

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Attorney answers 1


Dear tenant,

The charging of late fees is illegal under most residential leases EXCEPT when the fees reflect the actual loss to the landlord and that amount has been agreed upon in advance by you. The fact that you agreed to pay more than the actual loss is of no moment. Your landlord cannot contract around the law.

ALSO, your landlord cannot charge you attorneys' fees. While your lease might say that a "prevailing party" is entitled to obtain attorneys' fees, your landlord has not be adjudicated to be the prevailing party in any lawsuit.

Your landlord can only evict you for non-payment of rent, not for non-payment of attorneys' fees and late fees. Here's the upshot--they might sue you for unlawful detainer anyway, and unless you are represented by experienced unlawful detainer defense counsel, the Judge might accept the landlord's calculation of "rent" due.

The safest course is to pay the landlord what he wants and then sue him in small claims court for the return of the fees.