Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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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

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The case arose from a landlord’s repeated refusal to consent to the proposed assignment of a ground lease for the anchor space in a shopping center. The plaintiffs were the entities that wished to assign the leasehold interest and the entities that agreed to take the assignment; the defendants were the landlord and its parent company. In their original and first amended complaints, plaintiffs alleged the landlord unreasonably withheld consent to the plaintiffs’ lease assignment request. While the litigation was pending, plaintiffs made an amended lease assignment request, which the landlord similarly rejected. In their second amended complaint, plaintiffs asserted the same five causes of action as before, but added allegations about the landlord’s refusal to consent to their amended assignment request. The landlord filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the second amended complaint, contending plaintiffs’ amended assignment request and the landlord’s response to that request were settlement communications and statements made in litigation, and therefore constituted protected activity. The trial court denied the motion, finding the landlord’s rejection of the amended assignment request was not a settlement communication or litigation-related conduct, but rather an ordinary business decision. The Court of Appeal agreed and affirmed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion. View "ValueRock TN Prop. v. PK II Larwin Square" on Justia Law

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Orozco opened Pauly’s Famous Franks N Fries at San Jose's "The Plant" shopping center. Before signing a 10-year lease, he asked the leasing manager whether restaurants with competing concepts or products were being considered for the remaining space. The manager told him no, even as she was negotiating with Al’s Beef, a national franchise selling hot beef sandwiches, hot dogs, and french fries. Orozco signed the lease without knowledge that the Plant had leased space to Al’s and personally guaranteed rent payments. The lease, which Orozco did not fully read, contained statement that the landlord had not made any promises about products offered by other tenants or future tenants. Pauly’s had a successful debut, with steadily increasing revenue. Approximately six months after Pauly’s opened, Al’s opened two doors down. Pauly’s business declined and, within six months of the debut of Al’s, Pauly’s closed. A jury found intentional misrepresentation and concealment and awarded compensatory damages, primarily for Pauly’s lost profits. The court ruled that Orozco was not entitled to rescission of the guaranty. The court of appeal affirmed in part. Substantial evidence supports the finding of intentional misrepresentation and the award of lost profits. Orozco was entitled to rescission of the guaranty. Because Orozco prevailed in obtaining rescission of the guaranty, he is entitled to attorney’s fees under the lease. View "Orozco v. WPV San Jose, LLC" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a civil action brought by United Grand to recover overdue rent from Malibu Hillbillies and its guarantor. After a default judgment, United Grand sought almost $2 million in attorney fees for its efforts to enforce the judgment against the guarantor. The trial court subsequently found that United Grand had engaged in extensive misconduct throughout the duration of the action and imposed a terminating sanction striking from the complaint United Grand's prayer for attorney fees. However, the trial court also entered judgment in favor of United Grand and against the guarantor in the amount of the unpaid rent and accrued interest she had already paid. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of dismissal, the order dissolving the injunction and the order denying attorney fees on appeal. The court held that many of United Grand's claims were forfeited and the few cognizable claims of error were meritless. Finally, the court dismissed the appeal from the sanctions orders. View "United Grand Corp. v. Malibu Hillbillies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Landlord filed an unlawful detainer action against tenants. At issue was whether the property fell within the single-family dwelling exemption to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance of the City of Los Angeles. The Court of Appeal held that, regardless of the original design and use of the property, its current configuration (nine bedrooms, two bathrooms, and one kitchen) and current use for occupancy (four individual bedrooms rented to separate households who share the kitchen and bathrooms, but who alone have exclusive access to and use of their rooms) does not qualify for the single–family dwelling exemption from the Ordinance, because it is not a "detached dwelling containing only one dwelling unit" within the meaning of Municipal Code section 12.03. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the appellate division. View "Chun v. Del Cid" on Justia Law

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Sixty-nine current and former residents of mobilehome park Terrace View Mobile Home Estates filed a lawsuit against the park's owners, Terrace View Partners, LP, Thomas Tatum, Jeffrey Kaplan, and management company, Mobile Community Management Company (collectively, defendants). The operative first amended complaint, styled as a class action, included 12 causes of action based on allegations that defendants' failure to maintain the park in "good working order and condition" created a nuisance that, along with unreasonably high space rent increases, made it difficult or impossible for park residents to sell their mobilehomes. After the court denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification, the parties and the court agreed to try the case in phases, with the first phase involving 16 residents living in 10 spaces in Terrace View. A first-phase jury returned a special verdict finding defendants liable and awarded the individual plaintiffs economic and noneconomic damages for: intentional interference with property rights, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, nuisance (based on substantially failing to enforce the park's rules and regulations), breach of contract/breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, and negligence/negligence per se. The jury found defendants were not liable for nuisance based on failing to provide and maintain the park's common facilities and physical improvements in good working order and condition, and were not liable for elder financial abuse against five plaintiffs. After the jury was discharged, the court issued an order on plaintiffs' cause of action alleging defendants violated Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq., the "unfair competition law" (UCL). The court ruled that a "catch-up" provision in defendants' long-term leases that could greatly increase rent at the end of a lease term was unfair in violation of the UCL. The judgment also reflected the court's rulings at the beginning of trial that certain other provisions in the parties' lease agreements violated California's Mobilehome Residency Law or were otherwise unlawful. Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the jury's award of compensatory damages and punitive damages had to be reversed. Although the jury's award of economic damages may have included unspecified amounts that could be upheld on appeal if the special verdict form had segregated them, "it is clear from the record that the vast majority of the economic damages awarded represented reimbursement for overpayment of rent and diminution in value of homes caused by high rent. Because the award of such damages cannot be sustained under any of the theories of liability presented to the jury and it is impossible to sever any properly awarded damages from improperly awarded damages." The Court therefore reversed the entire award of compensatory damages and the attendant awards of punitive damages and attorney fees and costs to plaintiffs. View "Bevis v. Terrace View Partners, LP" on Justia Law