Justia Landlord - Tenant Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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An individual bought a condominium, which she consistently rented for short terms. Sixteen years after her purchase, the owner’s association amended its governing documents to prohibit renting properties for less than 30 days. The Court of Appeal agreed with the owner that she was exempt from this prohibition under Civil Code section 4740 (a), which provided that an owner of a property in a common interest development “shall not be subject to a provision in a governing document or an amendment to a governing document that prohibits the rental or leasing of” the owner’s property unless that document or amendment “was effective prior to the date the owner acquired title” to the property. The trial court held that she was not exempt, so judgment was reversed. View "Brown v. Montage at Mission Hills, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hom rented a San Francisco building to Entertainment for a restaurant. The lease allowed Entertainment to encumber its leasehold in favor of its lenders. A lender with an encumbrance could do anything required of Entertainment under the lease, foreclose on the leasehold, receive copies of notices, cure any breach by Entertainment, and enter into a new lease following any default by Entertainment; the parties were not allowed to modify or cancel the lease without the lender's consent. The lease stated that the prevailing party in any dispute is entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees. Entertainment later signed promissory notes with Lenders and pledged all of its assets as security. A dispute arose between Entertainment and Hom that resulted in litigation. Entertainment sued for breach of contract. Hom’s cross-complaint alleged that Lenders interfered with Hom’s ability to collect rent and evict Entertainment, that the loans were a sham.The court enforced a settlement between Hom and Entertainment, dismissing the cross-complaint with prejudice. Lenders sought attorney’s fees based on the lease. The court of appeal affirmed the award of approximately $150,000 in fees. Because the lease goes into such detail regarding lenders’ rights, it was reasonably foreseeable that disputes involving lenders would arise over those rights. It is natural to conclude that the landlord and tenant intended to give lenders the same rights to attorney’s fees as the direct parties. View "Hom v. Petrou" on Justia Law

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The County of Sacramento (County) filed an action to abate building and housing code violations at two properties owned or managed by Raj Singh and Kiran Rawat, individually and as trustee of the SitaRam Living Trust dated 2007 and the Sita Ram Trust. The trial court appointed a receiver under Health and Safety Code section 17980.7 to take control of and rehabilitate the properties upon the County’s motion. Singh appealed pro se the trial court’s order approving the receiver’s final account and report and discharging the receiver. The Court of Appeal addressed Singh's claims "as best as [the Court could] discern them." After careful consideration of Singh's claims, the Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court. View "County of Sacramento v. Rawat" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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