Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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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

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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

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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

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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

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Since 1986, the GSW NBA basketball team has played their home games at the Authority's Oakland arena. A 1996 License Agreement gave GSW certain obligations to pay the debt incurred in renovating the arena if GSW “terminates” the agreement. In 2012, GSW announced its intention to construct a new arena in San Francisco. GSW did not exercise the renewal option in the Agreement, and, on June 30, 2017, its initial term expired. GSW initiated arbitration proceedings, seeking a declaration that it was no longer obliged to make debt payments if it allowed the License Agreement to expire rather than terminating it.The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Authority and against GSW, awarding the Authority attorney fees. The court of appeal affirmed. Based on extrinsic evidence, the arbitrator found the parties intended to adhere to the terms of a pre-agreement Memorandum of Understanding, which required the team to continue making debt payments after the initial term. The 1996 License Agreement is reasonably susceptible to the parties’ competing interpretations, so parol evidence was admissible to prove what the parties intended. Even assuming that the arbitrator addressed a question of law when she interpreted the Agreement, the parties intended to include a termination of the agreement upon GSW’s failure to exercise the first two options to renew. View "Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority v. Golden State Warriors, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendants-tenants John and Rosa Castro (the tenants) leased a residential property from plaintiff-landlord Fred Graylee. The landlord brought an unlawful detainer action against the tenants, alleging they owed him $27,100 in unpaid rent. The day of trial, the parties entered into a stipulated judgment in which the tenants agreed to vacate the property by a certain date and time. If they failed to do so, the landlord would be entitled to enter a $28,970 judgment against them. The tenants missed their move-out deadline by a few hours and the landlord filed a motion seeking entry of judgment. The trial court granted the motion and entered a $28,970 judgment against the tenants under the terms of the stipulation. The tenants appealed, arguing the judgment constituted an unenforceable penalty because it bore no reasonable relationship to the range of actual damages the parties could have anticipated would flow from a breach of the stipulation. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Graylee v. Castro" on Justia Law

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Landlord's 131,000-square-foot San Francisco building has been leased to Saks for a department store since 1991. The initial 25-year lease period is followed by options to renew at “ ‘Fair Market Rent.” If the parties are unable to agree to the rent amount, they are to submit the issue to arbitration. Saks exercised its option to renew the Lease. The parties were unable to agree on rent and selected arbitrator Kleczewski. Kleczewski reviewed the evidence and briefs. Landlords’s rent determination was $13,917,364; Saks’ determination was $6,250,000. Kleczewski’s own fair market rent determination was approximately $10.9 million. Pursuant to the principles of “baseball” arbitration, he ruled the annual rent would be $13,917,364.The trial court vacated the award, finding that the parties carefully defined the scope of the arbitrator’s authority but Kleczewski violated that agreement by visiting New York properties that influenced his decision. The parties participated in a second arbitration hearing before a different arbitrator who found in favor of Saks. The trial court confirmed the award. The court of appeal affirmed. Code of Civil Procedure section 1286.25 provides that courts “shall vacate” awards that are the product of procedural irregularities. The parties were clear from the outset that Kleczewski was not authorized to perform his own due diligence. View "California Union Square L.P. v. Saks & Co. LLC" on Justia Law

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Owens owns and resides in a single-family Oakland house. He rented individual rooms to three unrelated tenants. Tenant Barghout filed a petition under Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program alleging her housing became unsuitable due to disruptive construction work and hazardous conditions and that Owens failed to provide the required notice of the Rent Adjustment Program and retaliated by terminating her lease when she complained and sought a reduction in rent. Owens filed an unlawful detainer complaint, identifying Barghout as a month-to-month housemate with “sole use of one or more rooms and shared use of common areas.”A hearing officer rejected an argument that Barghout’s rental was not subject to the Ordinance because the rooms she rented were in a single-family home that was “alienable, separate from the title of any other dwelling unit,” exempt under the Costa-Hawkins Act from local rent control. The Rent Board, trial court, and court of appeal affirmed. The term “dwelling unit” has different meanings under building and planning codes and rent control ordinances. Under landlord-tenant law, “a dwelling or a unit” is not the entire property to which an owner holds title; it is any area understood to be committed to the habitation of a given tenant or tenants to the exclusion of others. The relevant dwelling unit is not Owens’s home but each of the rooms he rented to tenants. View "Owens v. City of Oakland Housing, Residential Rent & Relocation Board" on Justia Law

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In 2018, Landlord served Tenants with a Notice of Termination of Tenancy “in furtherance of [Landlord’s] withdrawal of the Property from residential rental use.” After the withdrawal date, Landlord filed unlawful detainer (UD) actions against Tenants under the Ellis Act. (Gov. Code, 7060) as unlimited civil cases. Landlord brought summary judgment motions for restitution of the premises based on Tenants’ holdover under the Ellis Act and the San Francisco rent ordinance. Landlord waived damages, estimated at $92-105 per day. After those motions were granted, Tenants moved to reclassify the actions as limited civil cases, arguing Landlord waived all unlawful detainer damages and that it was impossible for Landlord to meet the $25,000 minimum judgment amount for an unlimited civil matter.The trial court denied the motions for reclassification and entered judgments for possession in favor of Landlord. The court of appeal denied Tenants’ petition for a writ of mandate. Under the plain language of Code of Civil Procedure section 403.040(e), a UD action, filed as an unlimited civil case, need not be reclassified as a limited civil case if the landlord waives its claim to damages for the purpose of obtaining a judgment for possession by way of a motion for summary judgment. View "Hiona v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Schreiber resided in her apartment since the building was built in 1980. She was seriously injured when she fell through a skylight built into the apartment's deck. Lee built and previously owned the three-unit building. At the time of the accident, Lee’s adult children owned the property, which was managed by Golden. Before trial, Schreiber settled with the Lee children for $2.5 million. The trial court denied Lee’s motion for nonsuit on the ground Schreiber’s claims were based on a patent construction defect and barred by the statute of repose.The jury awarded Schreiber damages of over $2.6 million, allocating 12 percent of fault to Schreiber, 54 percent to Lee, 16 percent to Golden, and 18 percent collectively to the Lee children. After reducing the verdict to reflect Schreiber’s percentage of fault, the court offset the entirety of the economic damages by the amount of the settlement attributable to such damages; it denied any credit to Lee and Golden for the noneconomic damages and entered judgment against Lee for $756,000 and against Golden for $224,000. The court of appeal affirmed in all respects except as to the settlement credit, Golden, but not Lee, is entitled to a credit against both economic and noneconomic damages. The court noted the "unusual circumstances," that the Lee children were not only found independently negligent but also bore imputed liability for Golden's negligence. View "Schreiber v. Lee" on Justia Law