Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Duncan v. Kihagi
In 1994, Duncan moved into a rent-controlled unit in San Francisco. He was living there with his family when, in 2014, the landlords purchased the building and took away property-related benefits, ignored or delayed maintenance, were uncommunicative and uncooperative, and became increasingly hostile. While living in their unit, the tenants sued the landlords, alleging nuisance, breach of contract, negligence, harassment under San Francisco’s Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance, and unfair business practices (Bus. & Prof. Code 17200). Unlawful detainer actions were then filed against the tenants, who asserted affirmative defenses of retaliation and violation of the Rent Ordinance but later vacated the premises The landlords then unsuccessfully argued that because the tenants did not file a cross-complaint in the unlawful detainer actions, they were barred from pursuing their already-pending separate action. In 2016, the tenants added an allegation of unlawful owner move-in eviction. The jurors found the landlords liable under the Rent Ordinance and awarded $2.7 million. The court of appeal affirmed in 2021.The landlords nonetheless filed motions to vacate, claiming that the trial court had lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the tenants’ claims after they surrendered possession of their unit. The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of that claim. The only legal claim the tenants abandoned by moving out was current possession. The tenants’ other claims were not waived and were not required to be litigated in the unlawful detainer actions. View "Duncan v. Kihagi" on Justia Law
Nash v. Aprea
Plaintiffs sued Defendant for breach of contract in connection with their rental of Defendant’s home. Defendant failed to file an answer, and the trial court entered a default judgment for $59,191. The judgment included $1,000 in attorneys’ fees pursuant to a provision in the parties’ lease agreement authorizing attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party not to exceed $1,000. Defendant appealed, and the Second Appellate District affirmed. While the appeal was pending, the trial court granted in part Plaintiffs’ motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 685.080, subdivision (a), for an order allowing their costs of enforcing the judgment. The trial court awarded $27,721 in attorneys’ fees under section 685.040, which allows as an award of costs attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing a judgment “if the underlying judgment includes an award of attorney’s fees to the judgment creditor pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (10) of subdivision (a) of Section 1033.5.” Section 1033.5, subdivision (a)(10)(A), in turn, provides that attorneys’ fees may be awarded as costs where authorized by contract. In this appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred in awarding over $1,000 in attorneys’ fees for enforcing the judgment because the lease authorized attorneys’ fees “not to exceed $1,000.” The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that once the judgment was entered, the terms of the lease, including the $1,000 limitation on fees, were merged into and extinguished by the judgment. Because the judgment included an award of attorneys’ fees authorized by contract, section 685.040 allowed an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing the judgment. View "Nash v. Aprea" on Justia Law
Maarten v. Cohanzad
Plaintiffs appealed from a trial court order sustaining a demurrer to the class allegations in their complaint against Defendants, their former landlords. The complaint asserts claims under the Ellis Act and the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance (the Ordinance), Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC), as well as for fraud and violations of section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code (Unfair Competition Law). Defendants evicted Plaintiffs from their rent-controlled apartments. Plaintiffs alleged that although Defendants declared they were removing the apartment buildings from the rental market entirely, Defendants subsequently listed units in the same buildings for rent on Airbnb. Defendants demurred to the class allegations in the complaint, asserting Plaintiffs could not satisfy the requirements for class certification as a matter of law. The trial court found Plaintiffs could not satisfy the community of interest requirement for liability or damages, and class treatment was not the superior method for resolving the litigation The Second Appellate District reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the trial court erred in finding, as a matter of law, that there is no reasonable probability Plaintiffs will show common questions of law or fact predominate as to the classwide claims for liability. The court explained that Plaintiffs’ allegations indicate a need for individualized proof or calculation of damages. However, the court concluded Plaintiffs have alleged such issues may be effectively managed and there remains a reasonable probability Plaintiffs will satisfy the requirements for class certification. View "Maarten v. Cohanzad" on Justia Law
640 Octavia LLC v. Pieper
The LLC, managed by Kountze, owns the four-unit building. Kountze lives in one unit. When the LLC acquired the property in 2017, the tenants lived in unit 3. In 2020, the LLC served them with a “Notice of Termination of Tenancy” (NOT), stating that the landlord was withdrawing the property from the residential rental market under the Ellis Act and the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance. The landlord also filed with the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board a “Notice of Intent to Withdraw Residential Units from the Rental Market.” Counsel for the landlord testified that she sent the NOT to the tenants’ address with checks for $3,492.62 relocation payments. The postal service returned them due to the overflow of mail in the tenants’ mailboxes. The landlord and tenants had been engaged in protracted litigation, so counsel sent the NOT and checks to their counsel, who responded that he was “not authorized to accept” the payments.The landlord filed this unlawful detainer action. The tenants asserted affirmative defenses relating to the landlord’s lack of intent to withdraw the unit from the market and non-compliance with the Ellis Act. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment against the tenants, sustaining relevance objections to the tenants’ evidence. The tenants failed to raise a triable issue of material fact as to compliance with the Ellis Act and Rent Ordinance. View "640 Octavia LLC v. Pieper" on Justia Law
Divine Food and Catering v. Western Diocese of the Armenian etc.
Divine Food and Catering, LLC (Divine) appeals from the dismissal of its malicious prosecution complaint against defendants and respondents the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America (the Diocese), St. John Armenian Church (St. John), Archpriest Manoug Markarian (Archpriest Manoug), and Harout Markarian (collectively, defendants). The trial court dismissed the complaint after granting Defendants’ special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP statute. Divine was a commercial tenant of St. John’s banquet hall. St. John and the Diocese (the church entities) filed an unlawful detainer action seeking to evict Divine based on a purported oral month-to-month lease. Following trial, the unlawful detainer court found the written lease was valid and granted judgment for Divine. Divine then filed its malicious prosecution complaint, alleging Defendants brought the unlawful detainer action in order to extort money from Petros Taglyan, the father of Divine’s owner. Divine alleged Defendants had no probable cause to bring the unlawful detainer action. The Second Appellate District reversed. The court held that the triggers for the interim adverse judgment rule are limited to actual judgments and rulings on dispositive motions. The trial court, therefore, erred by applying the rule based on the unlawful detainer court’s sua sponte comments during trial. Alternatively, Divine has made an adequate showing for anti-SLAPP purposes that the unlawful detainer court’s comments were the product of fraud or perjury, which precludes application of the interim adverse judgment rule. Defendants have shown no other valid basis to support their anti-SLAPP motion. View "Divine Food and Catering v. Western Diocese of the Armenian etc." on Justia Law
Rreef America Reit II Corp, YYYY v. Samsara, Inc.
Samsara rented San Francisco office space from Rreef for a ten-year term, to be in “delivery condition” by November 1, 2019. Samsara provided an $11,384,368.00 letter of credit as “collateral for the full performance.” In 2021, Samsara sued, asserting that in July 2019, after Rreef had certified “delivery condition,” Samsara discovered that the premises were contaminated with lead and asbestos and that after Samsara conducted testing, Rreef cut off its access to the premises. The next day, Rreef served Samsara a 5-day notice to pay rent or quit based on Samsara’s alleged failure to pay rent for August-September 2021 ($1,826,697.95). Rreef subsequently filed an unlawful detainer complaint, alleging that Samsara stopped paying rent and had created a pretext to avoid its lease obligations. In October 2021, Rreef sought a writ of attachment in the unlawful detainer action, seeking $3,796,175.51: the amount demanded in the 5-day notice and $1,784,477.53 for October-November.The court granted Rreef’s application. The court of appeal reversed and remanded. The court rejected Samsara’s arguments that the amount that Rreef sought to attach must be reduced under Code of Civil Procedure 483.015(b)(4) by the amount remaining on the letter of credit and that the trial court erroneously refused to consider Samsara’s affirmative defenses of waiver and estoppel. However, the trial court declined to consider Samsara’s retaliatory eviction defense and whether Rreef sought attachment for an improper purpose. View "Rreef America Reit II Corp, YYYY v. Samsara, Inc." on Justia Law
65282 Two Bunch Palms Building LLC v. Coastal Harvest II, LLC
Plaintiff 65282 Two Bunch Palms Building LLC, (Two Bunch) orally leased an industrial building in Desert Hot Springs to Coastal Harvest II, LLC, (Coastal Harvest) for the indoor cultivation of cannabis. When, after two years of negotiations, the parties were unable to agree to a written lease and a master service agreement, Two Bunch served Coastal Harvest with a 30-day notice to quit. Coastal Harvest refused to vacate the property, so Two Bunch instituted this unlawful detainer action. After a one-day trial, the trial court entered a judgment of possession for Two Bunch and awarded it $180,000.13 in holdover damages. At trial court, Coastal Harvest unsuccessfully argued it operated a licensed cannabis operation on the property and, therefore, it could not be evicted because it was entitled to the presumption under California Civil Code section 1943 of a one-year tenancy for “agricultural . . . purposes” and the presumption of a one-year holdover tenancy for use of “agricultural lands” under Code of Civil Procedure section 1161(2). Assuming without deciding that Coastal Harvest’s cannabis operation constituted agriculture, Two Bunch rebutted the presumption under Civil Code section 1943 with evidence that the parties agreed that, unless they signed a written lease, the term of the oral lease was month-to-month. And, because this unlawful detainer action was not filed for failure to pay rent, Code of Civil Procedure section 1161(2) and its holdover presumption for “agricultural” tenants did not apply. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "65282 Two Bunch Palms Building LLC v. Coastal Harvest II, LLC" on Justia Law
Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A.
In 2014 the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution directing various City departments and officials to prepare and execute the necessary approvals and agreements to convey the property to Childhelp in exchange for Childhelp’s agreement to continue using the property to provide services for victims of child abuse. Ultimately, however, the City decided not to transfer the property to Childhelp. Childhelp filed this action against the City for, among other things, declaratory relief, writ of mandate, and promissory estoppel, and the City filed an unlawful detainer action against Childhelp. After the trial court consolidated the two actions, the court granted the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s cause of action for promissory estoppel, sustained without leave to amend the City’s demurrer to Childhelp’s causes of action for declaratory relief and writ of mandate, and granted the City’s motion for summary judgment on its unlawful detainer complaint. Childhelp appealed the ensuing judgment. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that Childhelp had occupied the property for almost 30 years and had an expectation it would eventually own the property. The 2014 resolution certainly suggested the City was seriously considering selling the property to Childhelp. But it was undisputed the parties never completed the transaction in accordance with the City Charter. While Childhelp cites cases reciting general principles of promissory estoppel, it does not cite any cases where the plaintiff successfully invoked promissory estoppel against a municipality in these circumstances. The trial court did not err in granting the City’s motion for summary adjudication on Childhelp’s promissory estoppel cause of action. View "Childhelp, Inc. v. City of L.A." on Justia Law
Moses v. Roger-McKeever
Moses attended a gathering at a condominium Roger-McKeever rented. Two years later, Moses filed suit for injuries. Moses alleged that, upon her arrival, she mentioned to Roger-McKeever that the entryway was dark. Roger-McKeever “was apologetic indicating that there was an electrical problem” and explained that her landlord had not been responsive in repairing the light. A photograph depicted three steps leading up from a street sidewalk, to a short walkway that ended at a door to Roger-McKeever’s condominium. Moses stated that when she was leaving, she could not see the second step and fell. She provided a declaration from a mechanical engineer that the steps were non-compliant with the building code and that the absence of a handrail and the riser heights were probable causes of the accident. Roger-McKeever submitted a declaration and the depositions of two individuals who attended the meeting, indicating that the walkway was not noticeably dark that night.The court granted Roger-McKeever summary judgment, finding that Roger-McKeever was a tenant who did not have control over the steps or the outside lighting and had no duty to maintain or repair that area. Roger-McKeever did not have a duty to warn Moses because she did not have prior notice that the steps were a “non-obvious” dangerous condition. The court of appeal affirmed. Moses did not raise a triable issue of material fact as to whether Roger-McKeever owed her a duty of care to protect her against the allegedly dangerous condition of the walkway. View "Moses v. Roger-McKeever" on Justia Law
West Pueblo Partners, LLC v. Stone Brewing Co., LLC
The landlord is a four-member LLC with a single asset--a building in downtown Napa. The tenant, Stone Brewing, a large beer brewing and retail corporation, operates a brewpub in the building. Stone Brewing did not pay rent for several months during the pandemic. The landlord sued for unlawful detainer. Stone argued it was excused from paying rent because COVID-19 regulations and business interruptions triggered a force majeure provision in its lease.The trial court granted the landlord summary judgment, finding that the force majeure provision only excused performance if the claiming party was unable to meet its obligations due to factors outside its control; the tenant admitted during discovery it had the financial resources to pay rent during the period of the COVID-19 regulations but simply refused to do so. The court of appeal affirmed. The force majeure provision does not apply where the tenant had the ability to meet its contractual obligations but chooses not to perform due to financial constraints. The plain meaning of the force majeure provision does not support an interpretation that ties a party’s obligation to pay rent to its profitability or revenue stream instead of a delay or interruption caused by the force majeure event itself. View "West Pueblo Partners, LLC v. Stone Brewing Co., LLC" on Justia Law