Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
by
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

by
After SCE filed suit for interference with easement and declaratory relief, defendant cross-complained, seeking damages for nuisance, trespass, and ejectment. The trial court found that SCE was granted floating easements over the property to access its electrical facilities; although the floating easements burdened the property at the time of creation, they did not become fixed easements until SCE and the property owners agreed on the access routes; at that point, SCE became the owner of an easement of reasonable width over each agreed-upon access route; and thus SCE was entitled to free access to those routes. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly determined that SCE owns easements over the agreed-upon access routes. The court also held that SCE did not forfeit its statute of limitations defense to the cross-claims. Furthermore, because the trial court's findings established that the alleged nuisance was permanent, defendant's challenge to the summary adjudication ruling was moot. View "Southern California Edison Co. v. Severns" on Justia Law

by
Appellants Bryan and Jackie Myers appealed after the trial court refused to set aside a judgment settling a disagreement between neighbors. Their homes sit on adjacent lots that were once part of a single parcel which, when subdivided, did not account for a five-foot setback for a part of one home now owned by Appellants. The problematic property line has spawned a host of disputes between the neighbors involving encroaching tree roots and the placement of an air conditioning unit, fencing, and security cameras. The Machados sued Appellants in 2014. The operative complaint asserted causes of action for nuisance, trespass, harassment, and violation of the right to privacy, among others. In February 2016, the case settled during a settlement conference on the eve of trial. The settlement terms were recited on the record, in open court. The parties acknowledged agreement to all terms. Appellants contended the judgment did not conform to the terms of the parties' stipulated settlement, which was entered orally before the court. The Machados contended Appellants' failure to comply with the terms of the settlement relieved them of their obligation to perform certain provisions originally contemplated in the parties' settlement, and thus the entry of a judgment modifying the original settlement terms was justified. The Court of Appeal concluded the judgment entered pursuant to section 664.6 erroneously failed to conform to the terms of the parties' stipulated settlement agreement. Therefore, judgment was reversed and the trial court directed to enter a new judgment setting forth all the material terms of the parties' settlement agreement, as reflected in the record. View "Machado v. Myers" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
Plaintiff-borrowers Thaddeus Potocki and Kelly Davenport sued Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and several other defendants (collectively, “Wells Fargo”) arising out of plaintiffs’ attempts to get a loan modification. The trial court sustained Wells Fargo’s demurrer to the third amended complaint without leave to amend. On appeal, plaintiffs argued: (1) a forbearance agreement obligated Wells Fargo to modify their loan; (2) the trial court erred in finding Wells Fargo owed no duty of care; (3) Wells Fargo’s denial of a loan modification was not sufficiently detailed to satisfy Civil Code section 2923.61; and (4) a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress was sufficiently pled. The Court of Appeal determined plaintiffs’ third contention had merit, and reversed judgment of dismissal, vacated the order sustaining the demurrer insofar as it dismissed the claim for a violation of section 2923.6, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Potocki v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Wells Fargo in tort for negligent mortgage modification and other claims. The trial court sustained Wells Fargo's demurrer, partly because Wells Fargo did not owe plaintiff a duty in tort during contract negotiation. The Court of Appeal held that no tort duty exists during contract negotiations for mortgage modification. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment, finding that the majority of other states are against it, and the most recent Restatement counsels against this extension because other bodies of law—breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, fraud, and so forth—are better suited to handle contract negotiation issues. View "Sheen v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit seeking to quiet title to two claimed easements within residential gated communities in which plaintiff has no ownership interest. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of plaintiff and held that the trial court erred by finding that the individual homeowners in the gated community were not indispensable parties to plaintiff's lawsuit, but nonetheless were bound by the judgment; by finding an express easement over all the private streets of Indian Springs; by providing an express easement or, alternatively, a prescriptive easement; by failing to make the necessary findings to support an equitable easement; and by determining that the Lenope property benefited plaintiff's ranch. Therefore, the court held that there were no enforceable easements over the private streets of the community, or over the Lenope roadway, and thus there was no basis for an award of damages or an injunction against any of the defendants, and no basis for the award of attorney fees. Furthermore, plaintiff's claims for nuisance, declaratory relief, and intentional interference with contractual relations also failed. View "Ranch at the Falls LLC v. O'Neal" on Justia Law

by
Appellants petitioned the Commission to revoke a coastal development permit (CDP), alleging that MVF's CDP application contained intentional misrepresentations regarding approvals it received from the Los Angeles County Environmental Review Board (ERB), the California Water Resources Control Board (Water Board), and the California Department of Fish and Game (Fish and Game). After the Commission denied the petition, appellants petitioned the superior court for a writ of administrative mandate to set aside the Commission's decision. The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of the petition and held that substantial evidence supported the Commission's determination that accurate or complete information would not have caused the Commission to act differently in ruling on MVF's CDP application. In this case, the Commission correctly interpreted and applied section 13105, subdivision (a), and substantial evidence supported the Commission's determination that although MVF's application contained intentional misrepresentations regarding the approvals by the ERB, Fish and Game, and the Water Board, the Commission would not have imposed additional conditions or denied the CDP if accurate information had been provided. View "Hubbard v. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed petitions for writs of administrative mandamus and sought declaratory relief requesting a finding that the Board was equitably estopped from asserting that rental properties were subject to rent control. The trial court granted the petitions and the requested declaratory relief. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred by applying equitable estoppel to require the Board to act beyond its statutory authority and in contravention of the Rent Control Law. The court also held that the Board did not revoke or modify the removal permits; the doctrine that an administrative agency may not reopen or reconsider a prior decision did not compel affirmance; and a landlord's entitlement to a constitutionally fair return was not affected by the Board's interpretation of section 1803(t) of the Santa Monica City Charter, article XVIII. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "1041 20th Street v. Santa Monica Rent Control Bd." on Justia Law