Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Brown, a tenant in low-income, rent-controlled housing owned and managed by Upside, filed suit on behalf of herself and other similarly situated persons, alleging violations of Hayward’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Tenant Protection Ordinance. According to Brown, Upside claimed an exemption to the ordinance based upon misleading information and thereafter imposed upon the often non-English-speaking tenants illegal rent increases, charged excessive late fees, and failed to pay required security deposit interest. Upside representatives approached the tenants individually with pre-written releases from the class action along with pre-written checks as “compensation.” The trial court invalidated those releases (signed by approximately 26 tenant putative class members) and required the parties to confer regarding a corrective notice for the putative class. The court found that the releases contained misleading and one-sided information regarding the underlying lawsuit. The court of appeal dismissed Upside’s appeal of the order as taken from a nonappealable order. The court rejected Upside’s argument that the order was appealable as an injunctive order within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1(a)(6) because it mandates certain actions on their part with respect to the putative class members. Section 904.1 provides no basis for appealing a standard interlocutory order. View "Brown v. Upside Gading, LP" on Justia Law

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Nine individual tenants prevailed in a jury trial against former owners of an illegally operated building on claims stemming from uninhabitable conditions in the building. Defendants were owners of a two-family residential building that they rented as 12 separate units. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that the owners forfeited their argument that plaintiffs failed to introduce evidence of net worth; substantial evidence supported the jury's finding that defendants engaged in conduct warranting punitive damages; the punitive damages were not excessive; sufficient evidence supported the jury's award of noneconomic damages; the trial court acted within its discretion in declining to offset damages with the amounts from prior settlements; and defendants failed to show that the jury's verdict was a result of misconduct or unfair prejudice. View "Garcia v. Myllyla" on Justia Law

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Appellants had been renting their San Francisco home to tenants for eight years when the front porch collapsed, causing injury to a tenant. When the tenants sued, appellants sought defense and indemnification from their insurance provider, respondent State Farm, which denied their claim, because appellants’ homeowners’ insurance policy excluded coverage for injuries arising out of an insured’s business pursuits or the rental of their home. Appellants sued State Farm for breach of contract and bad faith denial of their insurance claim. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of State Farm. The court rejected an argument that coverage should be restored under an exception for activities that are “ordinarily incident to non-business pursuits.” Appellants sought “to fold into a homeowners policy coverage for the commercial risks attendant to renting their home as a for-profit venture. There is a separate policy tailored to those business risks, a rental dwelling policy, that appellants eschewed in favor of a cheaper policy. Appellants’ argument, if accepted, would upend the allocation of risks and costs associated with commercial or personal activities that insurers rely upon to keep homeowners’ premiums lower than that of business enterprises.” View "Terrell v. State Farm General Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs leased a home from Pineda, who subsequently retained the attorney-defendants to begin eviction proceedings. According to plaintiffs, there was no rent past due. Pineda and the attorney-defendants filed an unlawful detainer action. The evidence indicated that Pineda had excluded rent payments from the rent ledger and had entered into a sales contract with a third party who wanted the building to be delivered vacant. Defendants continued to prosecute the unlawful detainer for two months. Upon dismissing that action, defendants served plaintiffs with a new three-day notice demanding $9,2503 in unpaid rent. The “October notice” attached a revised rent ledger. Plaintiffs sued for wrongful eviction, alleging that defendants violated an ordinance by demanding excessive rent; that defendants violated Civil Code 1950.5(b)(1) by applying plaintiffs’ security deposit to the payment of rent when they were not in default; breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment; and malicious prosecution. The attorney-defendants filed a special motion to strike the claims (anti-SLAPP, Code Civ. Proc. 425.16), arguing the claims arose from protected activities because they were based on the first unlawful detainer action and that plaintiffs could not demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits. The court of appeal affirmed denial of the anti-SLAPP motion. The attorney defendants did not satisfy the first prong of the anti-SLAPP statute; the allegation that they misused plaintiffs’ security deposit did not arise out of protected activity. The plaintiffs showed minimal merit on their remaining claims. View "Olivares v. Pineda" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from the judgment arising from Yolanda's Inc.'s action against its landlord. In this case, a shopping center lease contains a provision limiting the lessor's liability for breach of the lease to the lessor's interest in the shopping center. Yolanda's is the lessee and it obtained a judgment against its lessor, a limited partnership. The trial court denied Yolanda's motion to amend the judgment to add the general partner of the limited partner lessor as a judgment debtor. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that, by virtue of a foreclosure, the lease was assigned to the foreclosing lender; the assignment terminated the lessor's rights under the lease; and the termination of the lessor's rights also terminated the rights of the third party beneficiary general partner. View "Gietzen v. Covenant RE Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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Tenants alleged that their former landlord, Lau, violated the owner move-in provisions of the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance when he instigated eviction procedures against them. Tenants were awarded more than $600,000 in damages. The trial court entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict, finding no substantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The court of appeal affirmed. The “good faith,” “without ulterior reason,” and “honest intent” requirements do not trigger a wide-ranging inquiry into the general conduct and motivations of an owner who seeks to recover possession of a unit. These terms serve a specific function: to determine whether the owner harbors a good-faith desire to occupy the apartment as his primary residence on a long-term basis. Lau was under no legal obligation to evict another instead of the Tenants and may not be barred from enjoying the benefits of an apartment he owns and wishes to occupy as his primary residence simply because it had rented more cheaply than another, noncomparable unit in his building. View "Reynolds v. Lau" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the new owners of the building in which they rented an apartment, alleging that the purported reason for their eviction was a pretext for the true motivation of increasing the rental value of the unit. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs and the owners appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the litigation privilege did not bar this action. The court rejected the owners' challenge to the relative move-in provisions of the Rent Ordinance as unconstitutionally vague, and held that there was substantial evidence demonstrating that the owners violated the Rent Ordinance. Finally, the court affirmed the damages award, rejecting the owners' claims that the award was not supported by substantial evidence and violated their substantive due process rights. View "DeLisi v. Lam" on Justia Law

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Where an offeree achieves a judgment more favorable than a first offer, the determination of whether an offeree obtained a judgment more favorable than a second offer should include all costs reasonably incurred up to the date of the second offer. This case involved a landlord-tenant dispute which resulted in the tenant rejecting two offers to compromise from the landlord. After a bench trial, the trial court awarded the tenant damages less than the two offers to compromise. The trial court found that the Code of Civil Procedure section 998 offers were reasonable and made in good faith; declared the landlord to be the prevailing party; and awarded him attorney fees. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court improperly calculated the "net" judgment to ascertain whether tenant had obtained a judgment more favorable than the section 998 offers. In this case, the trial court should have added her costs and attorney fees to the damages award to determine the correct "net" judgment. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court's amended judgment incorporating the order and remanded for a determination of the amount of the tenant's reasonable costs. The court either declined to reach the tenant's remaining arguments or otherwise did not have jurisdiction to consider them. View "Hersey v. Vopava" on Justia Law

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In February 2015, Johnson’s landlord under the Housing and Community Development Act Section 8 housing assistance program (42 U.S.C. 1437f(o)) served a “lease violation notice” informing Johnson that she had violated her lease by following another tenant to his apartment and using profanity. In June 2015, Landlord issued a “notice to cease” stating that management had received a complaint from a resident alleging that she had used pepper spray against him. On February 29, 2016, Landlord served a “ninety-day notice of termination of tenancy.” In June, when Johnson failed to vacate, Landlord filed an unlawful detainer action. In August, the action was settled by a stipulation; Landlord agreed to reinstate Johnson’s tenancy on the condition that she conform her conduct to the lease. Landlord retained the right to apply for entry of judgment based on specified evidence of breach. In October, Landlord applied for entry of judgment, claiming that Johnson violated the stipulation. Johnson was evicted in January 2017. In February, the Oakland Housing Authority, which administers the Section 8 program, terminated Johnson's benefits. The court of appeal found no violation of Johnson’s procedural due process rights in terminating her from the program. Johnson was given sufficient notice of the grounds for termination: she failed to supply the Authority with required eviction documentation; she committed and was evicted for serious repeated lease violations. The hearing officer did not abuse its discretion in refusing to excuse the violation. View "Johnson v. Housing Authority of City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of defendants in an action involving proceeds awarded to its tenants as part of an eminent domain proceeding. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that the lease condemnation clause gave it the exclusive right to recover all moneys from any condemnation of the property and held that neither the language in the form lease nor plaintiff's arguments gave the court reason to read the lease language more expansively or as counter to Code of Civil Procedure section 1263.510. The court also held that the trial court did not err by applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel to plaintiff's claims to moneys awarded to tenants in LAUSD's eminent domain proceeding. View "Thee Aguila, Inc. v. Century Law Group" on Justia Law