Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Peviani v. Arbors at California Oaks Property Owner
In a fifth amended class action complaint, plaintiffs Kelly Peviani, Judy Rudolph, and Zachary Rudolph, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, sued defendants Arbors at California Oaks Property Owner, LLC and JRK Residential Group, Inc. Plaintiffs alleged “Defendants advertise with colorful brochures and promising language that the Property is a safe, habitable, and luxurious place to live, with numerous amenities including a playground, cabanas and lounges, tennis and basketball courts, a rock climbing wall, gym, and pools and heated spas. But the Property is nothing of the kind. Instead, the Property is littered with used condoms, drug use, broken security gates, violence, is devoid of security patrols, and police are called to the complex on a regular basis. The pools are dirty, and the fitness equipment is broken. The complex is unsafe for tenants, especially children, and does not deliver on its material promises.” The complaint included eight causes of action: (1) false advertising; (2) breach of the implied warranty of habitability; (3) nuisance; (4) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (5) bad faith retention of security deposits; and (6) three causes of action for unfair competition. Plaintiffs moved for certification of two classes, but the trial court denied the motion. Plaintiffs contended on appeal the trial court erred by denying their class certification motion. In regard to the false advertising claim, the trial court denied class certification due to a lack of commonality that would, in turn, cause the class to be unmanageable. After review of the trial court record, the Court of Appeal determined the trial court's commonality finding was flawed, making its related conclusion pertaining to manageability unreliable. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Peviani v. Arbors at California Oaks Property Owner" on Justia Law
Zuniga v. Cherry Avenue Auction, Inc.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of plaintiff in an action brought against defendants, the owners and operators of an outdoor swap meet, where plaintiff and her husband rented two vendor spaces. When plaintiff and her husband were setting up their booth, a 28-foot metal pole holding their advertising banner touched an overhead power line. Plaintiff and her husband were electrocuted, and he died. A jury found that defendants were 77.5 percent at fault and plaintiff's damages totaled $12.25 million. Defendants contend that they owe no duty of care to plaintiff because the danger presented by the overhead power line was open and obvious.The court concluded that the evidence presented in this case did not establish as a matter of law that the danger was open and obvious. The court explained that it was not obvious that the line was uninsulated, that it was energized, or that the amount of electricity being transmitted was lethal. Therefore, a warning would not have been superfluous; it would have provided information that was not obvious. The court also concluded that, because no workers' compensation insurance covered the injuries to plaintiff and her husband, the Privette doctrine should not be extended to the landlord-tenant relationship that existed in this case. View "Zuniga v. Cherry Avenue Auction, Inc." on Justia Law
Boshernitsan v. Bach
Appellants filed an unlawful detainer action against the tenants, seeking to evict them under a provision of San Francisco's rent control ordinance that allows a "landlord" to evict renters from a unit to make the unit available for a close relative of the landlord (the family move-in provision), Rent Ordinance, section 37.9(a)(8)(ii).The Court of Appeal concluded that, in sustaining the demurrer, the trial court correctly ruled that a trust is not a "natural person." However, the trial court was mistaken in assuming that appellants' trust is the landlord. The court explained that, as a matter of law, only trustees—not trusts—can hold legal title to property. The court held that natural persons who are acting as trustees of a revocable living trust and are also the trust's settlors and beneficiaries qualify as a "landlord" under the family move-in provision. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of the tenants, because appellants are not barred from seeking to evict the tenants under that provision. The court remanded with directions to enter a new order overruling the demurrer. View "Boshernitsan v. Bach" on Justia Law
Lee v. Kotyluk
Plaintiffs Johnny Ki Lee and Un Joong Lee sought to evict a commercial tenant, defendant Sean Kotyluk, for selling marijuana without a license. They filed an unlawful detainer action against him based on Code of Civil Procedure section 1161 (3). Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion in limine requesting judgment on the pleadings, claiming plaintiffs’ three-day notice (the notice) was defective because it was served on June 4, 2019, but plaintiffs had not become owners of the property until June 20, 2019. In response, plaintiffs explained that the prior owner of the property, Rosemarie Haynes, had served the notice before transferring ownership of the property to them. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings because the notice was issued prior to plaintiffs obtaining ownership of the property and because the notice failed to identify the party to whom defendant could return possession of the property. The court also denied plaintiffs leave to amend. Plaintiffs’ appeal raised two questions of first impression: (1) whether a property owner could file an unlawful detainer action based on a notice served by its predecessor in interest; and (2) did notice under section 1161 (3) have to identify a person to whom the tenant could turn over possession of the property if the tenant chose to quit? The Court of Appeal ruled: (1) nothing in the text of section 1161 prevented a successor owner from filing an unlawful detainer action, "nor does such a procedure undermine the purpose of the notice requirement in subdivision (3), which is primarily designed to give the tenant an opportunity to cure the breach and retain possession of the property;" and (2) identifying a specific person was not required by the statute: "Based on our reading of this subdivision, it appears the Legislature purposefully chose not to include such a requirement." View "Lee v. Kotyluk" on Justia Law
Garcia v. D/AQ Corp.
Plaintiff, the lessee under a lease for commercial premises, filed suit against defendants, alleging causes of action for premises liability and negligence after he fell down a staircase after hitting his head on a beam in the doorway at the top of the staircase. Plaintiff alleged that his fall was caused by the inherently dangerous condition of the staircase due to numerous building code violations.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' motion for summary judgment based on the exculpatory clause in the lease. In this case, plaintiff alleges ordinary, passive negligence -- the failure to discover a dangerous condition or to perform a duty imposed by law. The court held that the exculpatory clause shields the lessor from liability for ordinary negligence; its language is clear that the lesser shall not be liable for injury to the person of lessee; and these circumstances make this a case where, when the parties knowingly bargain for the protection at issue, the protection should be afforded. View "Garcia v. D/AQ Corp." on Justia Law
Pinto Lake MHP LLC v. County of Santa Cruz
Under the Santa Cruz Mobilehome Ordinance, a park owner may make an annual general rent adjustment without notice to the county, based on specified criteria. An owner who believes the annual adjustment does not provide for “a just and reasonable return” may petition for a special rent increase. Pinto, a 177-space mobile home park, filed a special petition seeking to increase rents by 47 percent. Notice was provided to the residents, who hired counsel and submitted objections. A hearing officer denied the proposed increase. Pinto filed a petition for administrative mandamus and complaint for declarative relief naming the county and the hearing officer as respondents. The county argued that Pinto failed to join the mobile home park residents as indispensable parties under Code of Civil Procedure section 389. Instead of amending its complaint/petition, Pinto elected to stand on the original pleadings. A judgment of dismissal was entered.The court of appeal remanded The trial court, citing Code of Civil Procedure section 389(a), concluded that the residents are necessary parties but did not address section 389(b)--whether the case should be dismissed due to the residents’ absence. The parties disagreed about whether the statute of limitations had run on joinder and the owner’s election to stand on its original pleading truncated the process. The court granted the unopposed motion to dismiss without deciding whether the residents could be made parties or whether the lawsuit could continue without them. View "Pinto Lake MHP LLC v. County of Santa Cruz" on Justia Law
Reyes v. Kruger
The tenant operated a medical marijuana outlet on commercial premises. The landlord received complaints from neighbors, related to parking issues, loitering, and littering and that the city’s code enforcement contacted her about violations and noncompliance with requests for inspection. The landlord’s first eviction effort faltered. Her second eviction effort was based on the delinquency in rent that had accrued during the pendency of the earlier attempt to evict, during which time the landlord had not accepted rent payments. The tenant testified that she never received any cash that the landlord had purportedly returned after the rent was paid by direct deposit. The trial court granted judgment in favor of the landlord. The appellate division reversed, finding that the tenant had timely paid rent through the period covered by the three-day notice by direct deposit.The tenant then sued the landlord for breach of contract by wrongful eviction. The trial court granted the landlord’s special motion to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code Civ. Proc., 425.16) and dismissed the suit. The court of appeal dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The statute makes an order granting a motion to strike immediately appealable and the appeal as to the order on the anti-SLAPP motions was untimely. View "Reyes v. Kruger" on Justia Law
Aljabban v. Fontana Indoor Swap Meet, Inc.
Mohamed Aljabban appeals from an adverse judgment after a bench trial in the lawsuit that he and his wife, Jacqueline Carrasco, filed against defendants Fontana Indoor Swap Meet, Inc. (FISM), Jonathan Shapiro and Victor Ramirez. Aljabban and Carrasco operated a beauty salon on the premises of an indoor swap meet managed by FISM and its president, Shapiro. Aljabban contended: (1) the trial court erred in concluding that he and Carrasco were not permitted to remove a sink/cabinet unit, a water heater and some decorative molding when vacating the premises of the beauty salon; (2) FISM and Shapiro improperly withheld $680.00 of the security deposit to cover expenses it incurred to repair damage to the premises; (3) the trial court should have found that FISM and Shapiro breached the parties’ agreement under which Aljabban and Carrasco occupied the premises because they wrongfully failed to renew it; and (4) he did not receive a fair trial because of alleged misbehavior during trial by Shapiro. After review, the Court of Appeal determined only one of Aljabban’s contentions had merit: FISM was not entitled to withhold $680.00 of the security deposit to cover the expense of repairing damage to the premises, as the parties did not specifically agree that the security deposit could be used to cover repairs. Accordingly, the Court reversed in part the trial court's judgment with respect to this contention, but affirmed in all other respects. The matter was remanded for further proceedings on the issue of attorney fees and costs. View "Aljabban v. Fontana Indoor Swap Meet, Inc." on Justia Law
Rivera v. Shivers
In 2008, appellants Robert and Linda Shivers rented a residential property in La Habra from respondent Wilfred Rivera. Almost seven years later, Rivera filed an unlawful detainer action against the Shivers, alleging they had not paid rent. He later amended his pleading to add causes of action based on the allegation they had damaged the property and taken appliances when they vacated it. The Shivers filed a cross-complaint, alleging Rivera had failed to make repairs to the property and had left it untenantable. The case was originally assigned to limited civil jurisdiction but was later reclassified to unlimited civil. Upon reassignment, the new trial judge ordered counsel to meet and confer regarding the appointment of a referee under Code of Civil Procedure section 638, and a status conference on the subject was scheduled for March 19, 2018. At the status conference, the parties advised the court they could not agree on a referee. The court took the matter under submission, but warned that a referee would be appointed if the parties could not agree on one. Thereafter, in a minute order dated one month later, the trial court, instead of appointing a referee, sua sponte ordered the matter to judicial arbitration. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the arbitration, originally statutory in nature, morphed into a contractual arbitration as the result of a vague stipulation by counsel for the parties. Neither side ever seemed to have entertained the notion that the completed arbitration was anything but binding, and treated it as such. The trial judge, however, decided on his own that the arbitration was not what the parties intended, a conclusion derived from their actions rather than their explicit words. As a result, the trial court denied the appellants’ petition to confirm, vacated the award, and set a trial date in the case. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in not confirming the arbitration award and reversed it. View "Rivera v. Shivers" on Justia Law
Williams v. 3620 W. 102nd Street, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, the property owners, claiming that the property they rented had bed bugs and other problems. The property owners then moved to compel arbitration based on agreements in plaintiffs' leases.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of the property owners' motion for arbitration, holding that state public policy prohibits arbitration provisions in residential lease agreements. The court held that the arbitration agreements in the leases were void under Civil Code 1953, subdivision (a)(4), and that Jaramillo v. JH Real Estate Partners, Inc. (2003) 111 Cal.App.4th 394, and Harris v. University Village Thousand Oaks, CCRC, LLC. (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 847, 850, specifically identified the right to have a jury trial as a procedural right that may not be waived or modified under section 1953, subdivision (a)(4). View "Williams v. 3620 W. 102nd Street, Inc." on Justia Law