Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Vitug v. Alameda Point Storage

August 10, 2010

ARACELI VITUG, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
ALAMEDA POINT STORAGE, INC., DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



(Alameda County Super. Ct. No. RG06249152). Bonnie Lewman-Sabraw and Steven Brick, Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simons, Acting P.J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

The California Self-Service Storage Facility Act (the Act) (Bus. and Prof. Code, § 21700 et seq.)*fn1 regulates certain aspects of the relationship between owners and renters of storage units at self-service storage facilities. In this case, we address the following question: Does the Act prohibit a self-service storage facility from continuing to charge rent and late fees to the renter of a storage unit after the facility has terminated the renter's right to access the unit due to nonpayment of rent? In the present case, plaintiff and appellant Araceli Vitug (appellant) rented a storage unit from defendant and respondent Alameda Point Storage, Inc. (respondent). After appellant fell behind on her rent payments, respondent sent her by certified mail a preliminary lien notice and then a notice of lien sale, which stated that her "right to use" her storage unit "has been terminated." Appellant subsequently paid respondent more than the lien amount specified in the notice. Respondent took the position that appellant's payment was insufficient because appellant owed respondent for additional monthly rent and late fees that had accrued following issuance of the notice. Respondent also threatened to sell appellant's property at auction and denied appellant access to her property.

Appellant brought suit against respondent alleging, among other things, causes of action under the Unfair Business Practices Act (§ 17200 et seq.) and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) (Civ. Code, § 1750 et seq.) based on allegations that respondent violated the Act by continuing to charge rent and late fees after terminating her right to use her storage unit in the notice of lien sale. The trial court granted respondent's motion for summary adjudication and respondent's subsequent no-merit motion regarding the CLRA claim, concluding that the Act, itself, did not prohibit respondent from charging additional rent and late fees. We agree and affirm. We do not, however, decide whether respondent had a right to charge the additional rent and late fees under appellant's lease agreement, because appellant has forfeited that issue.

BACKGROUND

Respondent is a self-storage facility located in Alameda, California. In 2002, appellant stored her personal property at respondent's facility pursuant to a written lease agreement.

Appellant became delinquent paying her rent and, on April 18, 2004, respondent sent appellant by certified mail a preliminary lien notice stating that she owed respondent $124.75 for rent and $45 for late fees (at $15 per month). The notice further stated, "If this sum is not paid in full before [May 5, 2004,] your right to use the storage space will terminate, you will be denied acces[s] and an owner's lien on any stored property will be imposed." On May 4, 2004, respondent sent appellant by certified mail a notice of lien sale stating, "Your right to use storage unit [No.] 1510 . . . has been terminated and you no longer have access to your stored property. The stored property is subject to a lien in the amount of $278[.] This amount will continue to increase under the terms of your rental agreement until paid in full." The May 4 notice indicated that appellant's property would be sold after a certain date, but the date is not legible on the document.

The sale of appellant's property did not take place because she requested that the sale be delayed. On September 2, 2004, appellant paid respondent $500; respondent took the position that she owed an additional $272 at that point. In February 2005, respondent sent appellant an "auction letter," and in March respondent advertised a lien sale in the Alameda Journal. Respondent sent appellant another auction letter, on April 6, and appellant contacted respondent to request further delay of the sale. Appellant signed an agreement to pay respondent $950, but she scratched out language stating that she did not contest the amount and that the agreement was in full settlement of the dispute. Appellant did not pay the $950.

On May 20, 2005, respondent sent appellant a second notice of lien sale, specifying a lien amount of $1,282 and that appellant's property would be sold after June 4. Appellant executed and returned to respondent a "Declaration in Opposition to Lien Sale," which prevented respondent from proceeding with the lien sale (see §§ 21706, 21710).

In 2007, appellant filed her second amended and operative complaint against respondent, alleging five causes of action. In 2008, respondent filed a motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative for summary adjudication, as to the first cause of action (declaratory and injunctive relief), the third cause of action (violation of the Unfair Business Practices Act), the fourth cause of action (conversion), and the fifth cause of action (trespass to chattels). The trial court granted the motion for summary adjudication on those four causes of action. Respondent filed a separate motion, pursuant to Civil Code section 1781, subdivision (c)(3), contending that appellant's second cause of action (violation of the CLRA) was without merit. (See Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd. v. Superior Court (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 36, 41-42 (Princess Cruise).) The trial court granted the CRLA no-merit motion and entered judgment in favor of respondent. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

The trial court granted respondent's motion for summary adjudication and the CLRA no-merit motion on the ground that the Act did not prohibit respondent from charging additional rent and late fees after termination of appellant's right to use her storage unit. We review the trial court's decision de novo. (Wiener v. Southcoast Childcare Centers, Inc. (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1138, 1142; Princess Cruise, supra, 179 Cal.App.4th at p. 42.)

At the outset, it is important to clearly delineate the scope of the issues on appeal. Appellant alleged in her complaint that respondent's notices were inadequate under the Act and that it was a violation of the Act to charge rent and late fees after termination of appellant's right to use her storage unit. Her unfair business practice and CLRA claims, the sole claims raised on appeal,*fn2 are based on those alleged violations of the Act. Critically, appellant did not allege in her complaint that the rent and late fees could not be charged under the lease agreement, and her unfair business practice and CLRA claims are not based on violation of the lease agreement. The lease agreement was not attached to the complaint; instead, it was placed into the record by respondent, as an attachment to a declaration in support of the motion for summary judgment/adjudication. Appellant did not argue below, in opposing summary judgment/adjudication, that imposition of the rent and late fees was in violation of the lease agreement. And the only argument adequately raised on appeal is that the trial court erred in concluding respondent did not violate the Act by continuing to charge rent and late fees after mailing the notice of lien sale. Appellant makes no reasoned argument that respondent violated the lease agreement by continuing to charge rent and late fees: her briefs contain no discussion of the language of the lease agreement, and she cites no statutory or case authority that the notice of lien sale had the effect of terminating her obligation to pay rent and late fees under the agreement.*fn3 Appellant has, thus, forfeited any such contentions. (Badie v. Bank of America (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 779, 784-785; Dietz v. Meisenheimer & Herron (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 771, 799.)

In determining whether respondent's conduct violated the Act, "we apply well-established rules of statutory construction. The goal of statutory construction is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the Legislature. [Citation.] Often, the words of the statute provide the most reliable indication of legislative intent. [Citation.] However, when the statutory language is itself ambiguous, we must examine the context in which the language appears, adopting the construction that best harmonizes the statute internally and with related statutes. [Citation.] ' "When the language is susceptible of more than one reasonable interpretation . . . we look to a variety of extrinsic aids, including the ostensible objects to be achieved, the evils to be remedied, the legislative history, public ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.