Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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A landlord can not be held liable to a commercial tenant for damage to the tenant's property resulting from an alleged sewer backup when the tenant (who had a month-to-month tenancy in the premises after her lease expired) had stopped paying rent, had been served (but failed to comply) with a three-day notice to pay rent or quit, and had been named in an unlawful detainer action filed before the alleged sewer backup occurred. In this case, the month-to-month tenancy was terminated by the tenant's failure to pay rent coupled with the landlord's filing of the wrongful detainer action. Therefore, as of the filing of the wrongful detainer action, the Court of Appeal held that the tenant was a tenant at sufferance who had no lawful right to possession of the premises. The court held that the landlord was not liable for damage to the tenant's property left on the premises when that damage was not caused by the landlord's intentional act or negligence. The court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "Multani v. Knight" on Justia Law

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Reilly and two daughters moved into a Novato apartment in 1998. They received Section 8 housing assistance payments. In 2004 one daughter moved out, but Reilly failed to inform the Marin Housing Authority (MHA) of her departure. Five years later, when Reilly told MHA that this daughter no longer lived with her, MHA informed Reilly that her failure to report the departure earlier was a violation of program rules and that she had to pay damages of $16,011. Reilly and MHA agreed to monthly payments; they revised the plan several times, eventually reducing Reilly’s obligation to $150 per month. Reilly missed multiple payments. Reilly requested that MHA recalculate her rent and exclude her income from the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, which compensates those who care for aged, blind, or disabled individuals incapable of caring for themselves. Reilly’s daughter suffers from a severe developmental disability. MHA proposed termination of her Section 8 voucher. Reilly argued that MHA improperly included her IHSS payments as income. A hearing officer upheld MHA’s decision to terminate Reilly’s housing voucher. The trial court and court of appeal affirmed. The IHSS money Reilly receives is “income” within the meaning of HUD regulations; MHA should include it in calculating Reilly’s housing assistance payment. View "Reilly v. Marin Housing Authority" on Justia Law

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In 1998 San Francisco outlawed discrimination against tenants who pay a portion of their rent with a Section 8, or similar, housing voucher by amending San Francisco’s existing housing discrimination ordinance to outlaw discrimination based on a person’s “source of income,” a term defined broadly to include government rent subsidies. In 1999, the California Legislature expanded the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to prohibit discrimination based on a tenant’s “source of income,” but defined the term narrowly, so that it does not reach government rent subsidies (Gov. Code 12955(a)). FEHA does not prevent a landlord from declining to take Section 8 tenants. The trial court and court of appeal held that the ordinance is not preempted by FEHA. The purpose of FEHA is “to provide effective remedies” for the 14 categories of “discriminatory practice[]” that FEHA itself addresses. FEHA does not reach the discriminatory practice of a landlord refusing to rent to a participant in the Section 8 program. San Francisco’s ordinance prohibiting such conduct has, by definition, a different purpose from FEHA.There is no inherent contradiction between FEHA and the San Francisco ordinance. View "City and County of San Francisco v. Post" on Justia Law

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Before San Francisco Ordinance 286-13 was adopted in 2013, the Planning Code generally prohibited the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of “nonconforming units,” which are legal residential housing units that exceed the currently-permitted density for the zoning district in which they are located. The 2013 amendment permits the enlargement, alteration or reconstruction of nonconforming residential units in zoning districts where residential use is principally permitted, if the changes do not extend beyond the “building envelope” as it existed on January 1, 2013. A waiting period of five to 10 years applies for changes to units where a tenant has been evicted employing Administrative Code grounds for evicting a non-faulting tenant, including section 37.9(a)(13), which allows an owner to evict tenants to remove residential units from the rental market in accordance with the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act prohibits local governments from “compel[ling] the owner of any residential real property to offer, or to continue to offer accommodations in the property for rent or lease.” Gov. Code 7060(a). The trial court upheld the amendment. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the ordinance is preempted by the Ellis Act because it requires an owner who exercises Ellis Act rights to wait years before being eligible for a permit to make alterations. View "Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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A commercial landlord who leases space to an operator of a health studio does not owe a duty under Health and Safety Code section 104113 or the common law to acquire and maintain an automated external defibrillator (AED) at the space or ensure that the operator does so. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action alleging negligence per se and negligence based on defendants' failure to maintain an AED on the premises of a boxing club. The court considered the Rowland v. Christian, (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, factors and held that defendant did not owe a duty to the gym's patrons to provide an AED on the premises nor a duty to require as a condition of the lease that the gym provide an AED on the premises. View "Day v. Lupo Vine Street, LP" on Justia Law

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HomeAway, an online forum that allows owners to list their properties for short-term rentals and connect with individuals who want to rent a house or apartment, rather than stay in a hotel, is not a party to those rental transactions. San Francisco requires owners who rent out property to obtain a registration certificate from the treasurer; short-term renters must pay a transient occupancy tax. A recent report on short-term rentals in San Francisco showed that most owners did not comply with those requirements. San Francisco obtained a court to enforce an administrative subpoena, requiring HomeAway.com to disclose data about San Francisco rental transactions. The court of appeal affirmed the order, rejecting arguments that the subpoena violated the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701–2712, which regulates the government’s ability to compel disclosure of some electronic data stored on the Internet, and that enforcing the subpoena would violate its customers’ constitutional rights. Even if HomeAway is “covered” by the Act, there is no violation because San Francisco used an authorized procedure. In addition, the subpoena does not require HomeAway to disclose electronic communications but seeks very specific information about hosts who use HomeAway to offer to rent property and about bookings. It does not command HomeAway to produce any customer's electronic communication or login information. View "City and County of San Francisco v. HomeAway.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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HomeAway, an online forum that allows owners to list their properties for short-term rentals and connect with individuals who want to rent a house or apartment, rather than stay in a hotel, is not a party to those rental transactions. San Francisco requires owners who rent out property to obtain a registration certificate from the treasurer; short-term renters must pay a transient occupancy tax. A recent report on short-term rentals in San Francisco showed that most owners did not comply with those requirements. San Francisco obtained a court to enforce an administrative subpoena, requiring HomeAway.com to disclose data about San Francisco rental transactions. The court of appeal affirmed the order, rejecting arguments that the subpoena violated the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701–2712, which regulates the government’s ability to compel disclosure of some electronic data stored on the Internet, and that enforcing the subpoena would violate its customers’ constitutional rights. Even if HomeAway is “covered” by the Act, there is no violation because San Francisco used an authorized procedure. In addition, the subpoena does not require HomeAway to disclose electronic communications but seeks very specific information about hosts who use HomeAway to offer to rent property and about bookings. It does not command HomeAway to produce any customer's electronic communication or login information. View "City and County of San Francisco v. HomeAway.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against their landlord for alleged negligence after a fire in an upstairs apartment caused injuries to several tenants. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the landlord, holding that defendant met his initial burden of presenting prima facie evidence that plaintiffs would not be able to establish the element of causation. The court also held that plaintiffs' reference to the discrepancy in the declaration of an expert fire investigator without evidence to establish the significance thereof on the issue of causation, was insufficient to create a triable issue of material fact; plaintiffs never properly alleged a cause of action based on a failure to warn theory; potential inferences that arguably arose under the evidence offered by defendant were not sufficient to create a triable issue of fact; and plaintiffs' 11th-hour spoliation claim was properly disregarded by the trial court under the circumstances. View "Leyva v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against their landlord for alleged negligence after a fire in an upstairs apartment caused injuries to several tenants. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for the landlord, holding that defendant met his initial burden of presenting prima facie evidence that plaintiffs would not be able to establish the element of causation. The court also held that plaintiffs' reference to the discrepancy in the declaration of an expert fire investigator without evidence to establish the significance thereof on the issue of causation, was insufficient to create a triable issue of material fact; plaintiffs never properly alleged a cause of action based on a failure to warn theory; potential inferences that arguably arose under the evidence offered by defendant were not sufficient to create a triable issue of fact; and plaintiffs' 11th-hour spoliation claim was properly disregarded by the trial court under the circumstances. View "Leyva v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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In 2016, San Francisco barred no-fault evictions (for owner move-in, condominium conversion, permanent removal of the unit from housing use, capital improvements, or substantial rehabilitation) of families with children and educators during the school year. The trial court concluded state law preempted this ordinance. The court of appeal reversed. The purpose of the unlawful detainer statutes is procedural; they implement the landlord’s property rights by permitting him to recover possession once the consensual basis for the tenant’s occupancy ends. The ordinance is a limitation upon the landlord’s property rights under the police power, giving rise to a substantive ground of defense in unlawful detainer proceedings. The ordinance does not specify an amount of notice required to terminate a tenancy but only establishes a permissible substantive defense to eviction that (like some other substantive defenses to eviction) impacts when landlords may evict. It regulates in an area within the municipality’s police powers and does not conflict with a state statute, its incidental impact on the timing of landlord-tenant relations does not alone render it preempted. View "San Francisco Apartment Association. v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law