How to Deal with Tenant Who Refuses to Pay Late Fees?

Discussion in 'Other Residential Landlord & Tenant Issues' started by CALotus, Oct 16, 2009.

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  1. CALotus

    CALotus Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I'm a California LL and have a tenant who refuses to pay late fees for a four-day late payment that occurred in August. Tenant paid late only once. Late fees were agreed to in the One-year lease agreement that expires in five months.

    Everytime I remind tenant about the late fees, tenant goes ballistic. Lately, tenant has become abusive and is annoying me with nuisance requests to fix petty things. I'm a pretty good LL and respond to tenant's request for repairs within a reasonable period of time, depending on the seriousness of the problem. Of course, health and safety issues have priority. However, tenant and I disagree regarding what is "reasonable". Lately, Tenant has become very obnoxious and bossy, and treats me like I'm an employee. Tenant believes that establishing what is reasonable and habitable can only be determined by tenant and refuses to pay late fees because tenant was "inconvenienced". I think this tenant has some emotional issues (passive aggressive?) and I'm considering asking tenant to vacate at end of lease term.

    Can I deduct the unpaid late fees from the security deposit when tenant moves out or should I take action now?

    Someone advised that I should have deducted the late fee from the following month's rent payment and billed tenant for the "unpaid rent balance". Is this a good idea? Can I still do this after 2-3 months and follow-up with a Three Day Notice to Pay or Quit?

    How should I handle this?
     
  2. Gail_in_Georgia

    Gail_in_Georgia Moderator

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    The attached may help; it's an easy to read review of California landlord tenant laws (which can be daunting!):

    http://www.landlord.com/lawresoverview.htm#2. SECURITY DEPOSITS

    Pay particular attention to #2 which addresses security deposits which can be kept to cover "defaults in rent payment" (including late fees) after the tenant vacates.

    Section 5 addresses "condition, maintenance and repair" issues. A "reasonable" amount of time to address non-emergency repair issues is 30 days. A tenant in California can only withhold rent for a landlords breach of addressing repair issues if such issues "substantially have affected the tenants health and safety". Being "inconvenienced" isn't one of these.

    How does your tenant contact you regarding these issues? Phone calls and emails are quick ways to get in contact with a landlord. Sometimes these petty requests for repairs can be nipped in the bud if the landlord requires that ALL non-emergency repair requests MUST be in written form and submitted via snail mail.

    Gail
     
  3. jharris352

    jharris352 New Member

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    You absolutely can deduct unpaid late fees from the security deposit or you can file for eviction based on the unpaid late fee. The late fee is part of the rent. If they fail to pay it they are behind on rent.
     
  4. CALotus

    CALotus Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you for your helpful and informative responses.

    Tenant's most recent complaint is... "the front door is not properly weather-proofed and allows wind to rush in making the house cold". A few days ago, I scheduled with the tenant to install weather-stripping around the front door this coming Sunday.

    I'm now thinking that I will proceed with the pre-arranged visit to correct the drafty door issue. While I'm there, I would like to perform an inspection of the premises. Tenant usually leaves when I come to make a repair. I suspect there may be other lease violations, i.e. disabling of smoke detectors. If smoke detectors have been disabled, I will add this to list of breaches that Tenant must cure.

    I will serve tenant with a 3 Day Notice To Perform Covenant (Cure) or Quit.

    Seem reasonable?
     
  5. jharris352

    jharris352 New Member

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    You aren't REQUIRED to make that sort of "repair." But make the "inspection" anyway. Good Luck.
     
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