If I pay off a 3-day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit,can I still dispute the landlord’s claim afterwards?

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If I pay off a 3-day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit,can I still dispute the landlord’s claim afterwards?

Upon receiving first 3-DAY NOTICE TO PAY OR QUIT, I called landlord to make arrangements for late payment.Landlord stated I am required to pay $50 late fee with payment. I paid rent + $50, 4 days later as discussed, however, I was served with unlawful detainer motion submitting payment. When confronted, landlord delayed the court motion due to payment but holds me responsible for their attorney fees of $755. They have issued a second 3-day notive to pay or quit and it prevents me from paying rent until attorney fees are paid.

Asked on September 9, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You should, if possible, retain an attorney to help you; but even if you don't, you may have grounds for fighting this:

1) If the tenant pays prior to eviction or within such other time frame as mutually agreed, he can't be evicted.

2) Late fees and attorneys fees can generally only be assessed if they are in the lease.

3) Even if attorney fees may be assessed, they must be "reasonable" or they can be challenged. $755 does not seem reasonable; for comparison, in Northern NJ where I practice--and which is one of the more expensive legal markets; it's almost as pricey as NYC--a typical eviction is $150 - $250 of legal fees. (A lawyer with whom I sometimes work, who specializes in this, charges $200, for example.)

If you don't have or can't afford an attorney, you could  bring these matters up at court yourself, on the trial date; you should also put them in your answer to the summons and complaint. A lawyer would definitely help, though; if you can't afford one, try contacting your state's legal aid society. Good luck.


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