Tuesday, December 18, 2018
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court held yesterday that a new owner of a property may not serve a three-day notice to quit on tenants until it has perfected its title, declaring that the plain language of Code of Civil Procedure §1161a(b) so requires.
Justice Ming W. Chin delivered the high court’s unanimous opinion, which reverses the holding in the case by Div. Six of this district’s Court of Appeal .
The opinion comes in an unlawful detainer action brought by Dr. Leevil, LLC, which bought the site of a Thousand Oaks skilled nursing facility at a foreclosure sale after the prior owner defaulted on its loan. Dr. Leevil served a three-day notice to quit on the occupant, Westlake Health Care Center.
Both the occupant and the prior landlord, Westlake Village Property, L.P., were owned and operated by the same two persons, Jeoung Hie Lee and II Hie Lee.
Div. Six’s Analysis
Justice Martin J. Tangeman wrote the Court of Appeal’s opinion in the case, filed March 7, 2017. He focused on Code of Civil Procedure §1161a(b) which sets forth the circumstances under which “a person who holds over and continues in possession of…real property after a three-day written notice to quit the property has been served upon the person…may be removed therefrom.” The circumstance upon which Dr. Leevil relied is that contained in §1161(a)(b)(3):
“Where the property has been sold in accordance with Section 2924 of the Civil Code, under a power of sale contained in a deed of trust executed by such person, or a person under whom such person claims, and the title under the sale has been duly perfected.”
“The statute does not require that title be perfected (i.e., that the trustee’s deed be recorded) before service of the three-day notice. It requires that title be perfected before a tenant ‘may be removed’ from the property.”
‘Most Natural Reading’
“Based on that reading, the Court of Appeal concluded that a holdover possessor of real property ‘may be removed’ (§ 1161a(b)) only after section 1161a(b)(3) is satisfied, but the three-day written notice to quit may be served before section 1161a(b)(3) is satisfied, because the three-day notice does not, by itself, remove the property’s possessor….In so concluding, the Court of Appeal failed to discern the most natural reading of section 1161a(b).”
“There are two things to notice about the language of section 1161a(b)(3). First, the provision is in the past tense (‘has been sold’ and ‘has been duly perfected’), suggesting completion. By contrast, the substantive provision of section 1161a(b) uses the present tense (‘holds over and continues’ and ‘may be removed’). These choices of verb tense strongly support the conclusion that section 1161a(b)(3), when it is relied upon by a plaintiff, enumerates conditions precedent that the plaintiff must satisfy before invoking the substantive provision of section 1161a(b)—that is, before serving a notice to quit….”
Pointing an additional factor, Chin said:
“Second, the sale of the property in question is only one of three distinct conditions set forth in section 1161a(b)(3), and the use of the conjunctive word ‘and’ to connect the three conditions can only mean that all three conditions must be satisfied. In other words, all three conditions of section 1161a(b)(3), including perfection of title, were prerequisites to Dr. Leevil having any right to the remedy section 1161a(b) affords. And in this context, perfection of title requires that the instrument of conveyance (the trustee’s deed) be recorded pursuant to Government Code section 27280.”
The case is Dr. Leevil, LLC v. Westlake Health Care Center, 2018 S.O.S. 5945.
Teri T. Pham and Courtney M. Havens of the West Los Angeles law firm of Enenstein Pham & Glass represented the tenant. Ronald N. Richards and Nicholas Bravo of the West Hollywood Law Offices of Ronald Richards & Associates, Robert Cooper of the Los Angeles office of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, Law Offices of Geoffrey Long and Geoffrey S. Long and Manhattan Beach acted for Dr. Leevil, LLC.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company