Thursday, December 29, 2016

New rest period policies in California

On December 22, 2016, California Supreme Court in Augustus v. ABM Security Services (Case S224853)  has reversed the prior decision made by the appellate court [233 Cal.App.4th 1065 (2014) as modified 1/29/15], and pretty much established new rules applicable to the rest period policies.

Monday, October 31, 2016

"Educators" ban on evictions is gone, no longer

[02-14-2018: Court of appeals reversed the judgment];
[Cal. Sup. Ct. denied review on April 25, 2018; Rent Ordinance reinstated back the "educators" ordinance's language on May 15, 2018, see the press release here].

On September 28, 2016, the San Francisco court adjudged the writ of mandate granted on August 31, invalidating the infamous ordinance of last year, which was injecting a new type of a protected tenant, the "educators." That the new limitation was overbroad and unnecessary wide, both as to covering categories of tenants, and in including previously unheard-of amount of types of evictions (even the temporary move-out for repairs)—all that I have already had an opportunity to cover in my earlier post. Thus, the Court's decision, invalidating the ordinance, was not a surprise to me.

What is surprising is how the Court arrived to invalidating this ordinance. This path seems to me worth our attention, to make a mental note in case of a similar argument in the future.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

10-year ban on residential mergers following non-fault eviction is confirmed as invalid by the appellate court

On September 19, 2016, San Francisco homeowners got confirmed in their relief, when the appellate court affirmed our county court's decision to strike a 10-year ban on residential mergers, following a non-fault eviction. The decision became final on October 24 (3 Cal.App 5th 463).  And yes, we are now in the fifth series of appellate decisions, since July 1, 2016.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Rent Control News

Despite the studies hinting to the contrary, rent-control regulations continue to spread in the Bay Area. San Mateo, Mountain View, and Richmond are slated to vote on the rent control measures (example articles covering it are here and here). This post covers the ones currently pending and a few hoping to join the movement; take notice, if you have property interests in the areas affected.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Disability As Criminal Defense

This post covers how some well known concepts of criminal defense in California can be made in the context of a disabled defendant. There is nothing new in the rules, yet the recent case, People v. Gana, provides some more detail and guidelines on application.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Eviction Notice book - new edition is out

I can finally announce that the new edition (better to say, "addition"), of my eviction notice book is finally out and available on Amazon (print and e-book versions). Since the 1st version came out in April 2015, all later iterations were improvements, corrections, and updates of the material outlined there, the "for-fault" evictions and the generally relevant information (exceptions, common elements, and other useful observations of general type).

This issue is different. It adds 22 pages of new material. Half of it covers topics common for all non-fault evictions, and there rest is dedicated to the first two "non-fault" just causes: owner move-in and relative move-in (37.9(a)(8)) evictions.

Monday, June 6, 2016

San Francisco Response To More Housing Demand--Less Supply

It may take several years, perhaps decades, before we will witness the end of the ongoing social experiment in San Francisco, where the options for housing development decrease, demand increases, and the legislature tries to hold the pressure by imposing more and more rules, simultaneously trying to prevent the natural flow and exchange of tenants, and talking about the desire for more affordable housing. This is a categorical conflict of contrasting goals, too few dare to acknowledge.

A few of recently published articles illustrate the issue.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Category Of Tenants In SF - Educators

[02-14-2018 update: Court of appeals reversed the judgment today];
[Cal. Sup. Ct. denied review on April 25, 2018; Rent Ordinance reinstated back the "educators" ordinance's language on May 15, 2018, see the press release here].

The rules of equality never meant to apply equally to the rule-makers themselves. This had often been the case since the times immemorial, and so observed by many, including Oliver Wendell Holmes.*  And in the context of our times and our local legislature on the issue of housing, examples of unequal treatment of classes of individuals in California are aplenty. Yet at least, for most of the times, you can see a public policy behind the legislatively created exceptions. Not all the times, but often. For a counter-example, when the reasoning is not immediately apparent, see CC § 51.2 and related sections, where the series of statutes provided a right to create senior-only housing (technically, a discrimination by age, albeit for a laudable purpose). In most of those statutes, one county (Riverside) is expressly excluded from these rules, see §§ 51.2(c), 51.3(j), 51.4(c), 51.10(d). I am sure there was some valid reason for that, but I don't know what it is.

Our county of San Francisco has its own rich history of laws treating us differently from elsewhere, especially in the field of housing regulations. Discriminating or differentiating the application of laws to individuals based on their age, disability, or familial status were for many years recognized applications of public policy of supporting those groups, by offering them additional protections, including such protections from evictions. Until now, however, it was more or less applied with care, providing a right for these individuals to claim a "protected" status as a tenant, in the concept of owner- or relative-move-in evictions, and there was a counter-balance for similarly disadvantaged landlords, by recognizing that the moving-in person could be in a similar position of being old or having children.**

Yet now we have a new and unprecedented piece of legislation, discriminating individuals by the source of income: Ordinance 55-16 created a new category, an "Educator," and it will widely apply to almost all non-fault kinds of evictions. Not only it offers no counter-balancing exceptions, but it takes away the ones existed before. I have a feeling that this legislative gem will be soon tested in courts, but for now it is the law, coming into effect on May 23, 2016. I had a chance to speculate on it, when it was introduced, let's now look more closely at what's coming.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Security Deposit - Held In Trust Or Not?

It is an understandable to assume that, when you entrust someone with your money, to hold and use only under certain conditions, and to return the money back to you when/if those conditions don't apply, the money are held by someone in trust for you (Dillon v. Cross (1907) 5 Cal.App. 766; Spencer v. Duncan (1895) 107 Cal. 423), or as a bailee (Niiya v. Goto (1960, Cal App 2d Dist) 181 Cal. App. 2d 682; CC § 1814).

Not so with the security deposits. The court in Korens v. R. W. Zukin Corp. (1989) 212 Cal.App.3d 1054, ruled that the money held by the landlords as security deposits create a debtor-creditor relationship, but are not held in trust, citing in support CC § 1950.5(d). (Id. at 1058-1059). Is the Korens Rule absolute? As it is with many legal concepts,  the answer is "it depends."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Stealthy Amendment to The Rent Ordinance

Some amendments pass while being widely covered in the news, but not this one. It was not even announced in the "What's New" section of the Rent Board. And yet it did pass and will become effective in a couple of weeks, Ordinance 0017-16.
[Update 3-22-16] - The new form is now available for download and the news announcement is published]

This ordinance is a very short piece, but the changes it enacts should not be overlooked; indeed, that is the very danger of unknown changes in legislature, since ignorantia juris non excusat,* an ancient maxim apparently known since Aristotle. If you are like me, and had no idea about the changes coming, you might be interested in this summary below:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Waiver Defense Becomes Available To Landlords

Interpreting a lease agreement under the latest court decisions will be much different from the rules accepted among practitioners even a year ago. It seems the changes are now coming down almost every week, and the latest one is a rare specimen: Chen v. Kraft (2016) 243 Cal.App.4th Supp. 13. It holds, among other findings, that a landlord may not waive a prohibition against illegal use of the property, even if a landlord were to enter into a written agreement expressly permitting such use.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Another upside-down amendment to Rent Ordinance is introduced - Campos Bill Re: Educator Evictions

Politics have an inherited dependency on voters. At the core of politics is "making of a common decision for a group of people." [Wikipedia] Not surprisingly, politicians get voters' support by proposing decisions favorited by majority groups of people. The danger of democracy voting itself out was noticed long time ago. A fresh example from far away: Switzerland is going to vote on guaranteeing each citizen a monthly payment of approximately $2,800 fixed income, directly from the government, no effort required. How do you think this proposed measure will survive at the polls? I too think it will pass with a rare rate of success. [I was wrong--Swiss voted against it on June 5]

Example from a recent local past: in September 2015, our supervisors had to vote on the proposed vast package of anti-lanlord measures. Each of the decision-making voting members, a supervisor, is an elected figure, naturally concerned with influencing the electorate of her/his district, so that the majority group votes in support. If tenants constitute a majority of voters, how do you think the elected candidates would vote, especially when the a supervisor's voting is weeks away from her own re-election? Supervisors unanimously (on most points) supported the measure, and it is left to stay with us, at least until being examined by the courts,* even if the supervisors are gone. It did not help some of the sups who were due for re-election. In this city, one quote, even remotely suggesting something against the "eviction crisis" theme, can cost supervisor a seat. And it did. Read the coverage on, you will see that the winner for that district was supported by the Tenants' Union. The losing candidate was obviously not.

And turning to the current events, here is a new example of a successful attempt of winning tenant-voters' hearts: Supervisor David Campos (whose bid for reelection is up this year) introduced an amendment to eviction regulations, to limit evictions of anyone related in employment to education. What can be wrong with that? Let's count ways.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Of What Materials May Court Take Judicial Notice?

Request for judicial notice is a widely deployed vehicle for bringing court's attention to certain materials and records. In California, it is regulated by the California Evidence Code ("CEC"), Sections 450-460. It generally defines what requires judicial notice be mandatorily taken of (CEC 451), and what may be judicially noticed at court's discretion (CEC 452, 452.5). The rule is also stated for the contrary: what is not authorized by law, may not be judicially noticed (CEC 450). If the court declines to take judicial notice, the court shall let the parties know about its decision a.s.a.p., and indicate the denial on the record (CEC 456). However, such denial is never final and can be later reversed (CEC 458).

As comprehensive as the judicial notice statutes are written, they can't physically encompass every possible kind of matter litigants may request the court to take judicial notice of. It thus brings the question, what kind of non-obvious materials were previously judicially noticed? This post is a short review of items I was able to identify.