On Oct. 1, 2021, many things will change under California’s landlord/tenant laws. One thing that will not change, however, is the prohibition against landlords charging or attempting to collect late fees on pandemic-related rental debt from a resident who has submitted a declaration of COVID-19-related financial distress.

Because Civil Code section 1942.9, the statute that imposes this prohibition, has no expiration date, a tenant with a COVID-19 rental debt who submitted a COVID-19 declaration can never be charged a late fee for their COVID-19 rental debt or face an increase in fees charged, or be charged new fees, for services previously provided to that tenant for free.

In other words, even if a tenant remains in place for years, that tenant can never be charged late fees for their COVID-19 rental debt or be charged for services previously provided so long as they provided their COVID-19 declaration.

However, a landlord does not have to follow these procedures for tenants who did not owe a COVID-19 rental debt. Therefore, this reality may require two tiers of late-fee procedures for tenants with and those without a COVID-19 rental debt and accompanying declaration.

CAA plans to propose legislation in 2022 that would amend existing law to require tenants who previously experienced a COVID-19 financial distress to be responsible for late fees and charges applicable to future rental periods.