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money in person and with a witness (not just over the telephone) so that you can later show in court that you attempted to pay rent.

Although there are no specific legal limits on late fees, they must bear some reasonable relationship to the actual costs incurred by the landlord as a result of the late payment. For example, if the landlord’s costs as a result of the late payment are $15 and the landlord charged $150 as a late penalty, that could be ruled an unenforceable penalty. If a landlord is found to have charged a late fee without notice in the lease regarding such a fee, or if the fee does not bear a reasonable relationship to the landlord’s actual costs, the landlord may be liable to you for $100, three times the amount of the improper late fee, plus your reasonable attorneys’ fees. Additionally, a landlord may be in violation of the Deceptive Trade Practices - Consumer Protection Act if the landlord charges extremely excessive late fees. A court may also refuse to evict a tenant if the only alleged violation is that the tenant refused to pay an unreasonable late fee. [Tenants in Section 8, government-owned or government-subsidized dwellings have strictly monitored rent that varies with their income level and have additional protections for unfair late fees.]


House rules or apartment regulations are usually a part of the lease even though they are not printed on the lease form itself. Before you sign the lease, ask for a copy of the rules. If the rules have not been written down, ask the landlord to write them down and to sign and date the document. Having written rules will prevent the landlord from changing the rules in the middle of your lease. In general, most house rules are enforceable as long as they do not illegally discriminate. See "Discrimination." Rules may be unenforceable if they are completely unreasonable. For example, a broad curfew on adults has been consid- ered unreasonable by some lower courts. If you feel a landlord's rules are unreasonable, it may be safer to follow them temporarily and move rather than attempt to challenge them, unless you have an attorney or tenant organization to back you up. See "Overview."

Note that a landlord can decide not to renew a lease for almost any reason and, if the landlord has given proper notice of nonrenewal pursuant to the lease, a court will likely uphold that decision. In fact, the landlord is not obligated to give a reason for nonrenewal of a lease. Similarly, a landlord may terminate a month-to-month lease by giving a 30-day notice of nonrenewal. There are some exceptions. For example, a landlord cannot refuse to renew a lease in retaliation for a tenant requesting repairs. Further, a landlord cannot refuse to renew a lease based on a tenant’s race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability. See "Termination and Moving Out" and "Exceptions to Failing to Renew or Terminating a Month-to-Month." [Tenants in Section 8, government-owned or government-subsidized housing have more protections against unreasonable evictions and rules. These tenants should contact their local housing authority or HUD office to complain of any unfair rules.]


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