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Don H. Lee et al v. Robert C. Carroll et al

July 28, 2011

DON H. LEE ET AL., PLAINTIFFS, CROSS-DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
ROBERT C. CARROLL ET AL., DEFENDANTS, CROSS- COMPLAINANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



(Super. Ct. No. 163785)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Duarte , J.

Lee v. Carroll

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

This is an appeal from an award of attorney fees in a case where the underlying dispute involved the electrical service in a mobilehome park. The park had 30 amp electrical service but many of the mobilehome or RV units in the park were rated for 50 amps. The Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) threatened to suspend the park's license unless it upgraded its electrical service or "abate[d] the units."

The park, by assignee, brought suit against several residents, seeking an injunction to prohibit them from using and maintaining electrical loads that exceeded 30 amps and for a declaration that the electrical service at the park was adequate. Two of the residents cross-complained, asserting various defenses to the abatement action, seeking an injunction to force the park to bring the electrical service up to code, and seeking damages for nuisance and elder and dependent person abuse.

The park and other cross-defendants were granted summary judgment on the cross-complaint. The original complaint was amended and subsequently voluntarily dismissed. Both sides sought attorney fees and costs under the Mobilehome Residency Law (MRL) (Civ. Code, § 798 et seq.). The trial court awarded fees to the two residents as prevailing parties. The park and its assignee appeal. We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Redding Riverside Village, LLC (RRV)*fn1 owns and operates a mobilehome park in Redding. Don Lee is apparently an officer of RRV; he executes documents on behalf of the corporation. For 40 years the park has had 30 amp electrical service. Several units, however, are rated for 50 amp electrical service. The owner of one such unit, Robert Carroll, complained that his electrical service often went out and he contacted Housing and Community Development (HCD) about the problem.

On January 15, 2008, HCD issued RRV a final compliance order. The order stated that inspections and reinspections had revealed health and safety violations that remained uncorrected. The park had 30 amp electrical services, but 13 specified units were 50 amp rated. HCD's order specified that: "Park service must be upgraded to meet rated requirements of all existing mobilehome/RV units within the park, to include above noted spaces, or abate the units." The order indicated that a failure to comply would subject RRV to fines and suspension or revocation of the operating license.

RRV, by Lee, sent notices of HCD's citation to 10 residents. The notice stated in part, "It appears that your home is exceeding the 30AMP park service limit with higher loads that may be unsafe if continued. The answer is to 'DE-AMP' your home."

Meanwhile, Carroll brought a small claims court action against RRV and Mark Weiner, an officer of RRV's parent company, asserting 16 violations of the MRL. The trial court summarily ruled against Carroll on 14 of his claims. The court also rejected Carroll's claim that RRV's electrical service was inadequate, finding RRV was subject to a grandfather provision because it had provided 30 amp service for 40 years. The court found RRV was correct in mandating that tenants reduce their connected ampacity to 30 amps.*fn2

RRV sought an informal hearing with HCD on the electrical issue. An informal conference was held at RRV in May 2008; neither Mark Weiner nor Lee was present. HCD found the 13 cited violations were valid. As to each violation, HCD stated, "The violation of the park's electrical system on this lot stands as cited but with the reference authority added to be T25CCR1188(b) and (c), and the violation must be corrected within 30 days of this notice. Please note that this is not an order mandating the lot resident or homeowner to make a repair or modification; the violation relates to the park electrical equipment and the fact that the home's original unit design exceeds the park's ability to provide electrical service."

HCD stated there were no provisions in the regulations for a "grandfather" clause. RRV could not allow units which exceed the rated capacity of its equipment. If the original units, with 30 amp capacity, had remained at RRV, there would be no need to upgrade. Allowing newer units with a higher capacity into RRV required an upgrade.

HCD explained the unit owners had not been cited because their homes were not substandard or in violation of the MRL. It noted that the violations were the result of RRV's previous owners and their permitting installation of mobilehomes without first ensuring RRV's electrical system could supply the electrical demands of ...


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