Friday, January 24, 2014
Appellate Division Reverses Judgment in Forfeiture Case
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A trial court must consider a tenant’s motion for relief from a judgment of forfeiture on a lease, even when the judgment was obtained by default, the Los Angeles Superior Court Appellate Division has held.
The court, in an opinion by Judge Gregory Keosian, Wednesday reinstated James Dyce’s motion for relief, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to consider the merits.
Code of Civil Procedure §1179 provides that a court may relieve a tenant against a forfeiture of a lease or rental agreement whether or not the tenancy has been terminated.
On March 26, 2013, SRO Housing filed a complaint against Dyce alleging that he had failed to pay rent from November 2012 through March 2013.
Default judgment was entered in favor of SRO Housing on April 10.
Dyce sought to set aside the decision, arguing that he did not receive the summons and complaint until April 18. The court denied his motion, finding that he received summons on March 30 as was stated in the proof of service.
He also sought relief pursuant to §1179, explaining that he was elderly and under the care of mental health professionals, and that if the motion were denied he would be rendered homeless and would in turn become reliant on Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937.
The court declined to hear the motion, saying that “such relief is only available from a judgment upon trial under [section] 1174,” and is inapplicable to default judgments. Section 1174 provides that judgment may be granted upon the trial, jury verdict, or findings of the court.
Keosian disagreed, explaining that nothing in §1179 precludes a court from exercising discretion against forfeiture due to a default judgment.
The statute, he explained, provides a court with discretion to grant relief to any person and return them to their former tenancy in case of hardship.
As a result, he said:
“So long as the court imposes the statutory conditions, the full payment of rent due or full performance of conditions…the court has broad equitable discretion to relieve a tenant from forfeiture.”
The case is SRO Housing v. Dyce; BV 030540.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company