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Tobias Crisales v. Monica Estrada

April 12, 2012


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Central Trial Court, Jan G. Levine, Judge. Affirmed. Central Trial Court No. 11U01963

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


This opinion has been certified for publication in the Official Reports.

It is being sent to assist the Court of Appeal in deciding whether to order the case transferred to the court on the court=s own motion under rules 8.1000-8.1018.


This modification does not change the judgment of the court.


Plaintiff owned and rented the premises located at 4447 S. Huntington Drive, Los Angeles, California, 90032 (the premises). Plaintiff rented the premises to defendant beginning in August 2003. Under the terms of the lease, the agreed-upon rent was $950 per month payable the first day of each month.*fn1 The tenancy was also governed by a Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract*fn2 and the premises were located within the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance*fn3 (LARSO). Under the Section 8 contract, defendant was required to pay rent in the amount of $392 per month directly to plaintiff. The balance of $558 was paid directly to landlord as a housing assistance payment*fn4 by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), which is the local public housing agency (PHA) that administered the Section 8 program.*fn5

On October 13, 2010, plaintiff served defendant with a 90-day notice terminating the lease for Agood cause,@ namely Abusiness and economic reasons.@ Plaintiff relied upon title 24 of the Code of Federal Regulations parts 982.310(a)(3) and (d)(1)(iv) as the statutory authorities for his action. According to the Statement of Decision, the 90-day notice (which is not included in the record on appeal) provided that plaintiff=s specific reasons for serving the notice were as follows: Adifficulty dealing with Section 8 requirements, paperwork, inspections and attempt to obtain a rent increase. Failure by Section 8 agents in returning phone calls. Constant waste of time to obtain any information. I have made a business decision that I do not want to continue my relationship with the government as a party in my rental contracts. This decision is also being made to reduce expenses. . . .@

Thereafter, on February 3, 2011, plaintiff served defendant with a three-day notice to pay rent of $950 or quit. Defendant attempted to pay her share of the rent C which had since decreased to $115 C but plaintiff refused to accept it. In addition, plaintiff returned the HACLA subsidy of $835 which had been automatically deposited into his bank account.

Subsequently, on February 9, 2011, plaintiff filed the instant unlawful detainer action against defendant seeking, inter alia, possession of the premises on the ground that she failed to comply with his three-day notice. On February 14, 2011, defendant filed her answer to the complaint.

On March 22 and 23, 2011, the cause was called for court trial.*fn6 Plaintiff=s wife C Belinda Crisales (Ms. Crisales) C testified that she managed the rental of defendant=s unit. Ms. Crisales further testified to repeated unsuccessful attempts to secure approval from HACLA for the yearly three-percent increase in rent which was authorized under LARSO. According to Ms. Crisales, in the eight years defendant was a tenant of the premises, plaintiff was unable to secure approval for a singe rent increase. Specifically, Ms. Crisales said that she first contacted HACLA in May 2008 and inquired regarding the process for requesting a rent increase. She again inquired on October 28, 2009, and was instructed to apply online. She did so, and received a confirmation letter with follow-up instructions dated March 24, 2010. When Ms. Crisales called again in June 2010 to Afind out about@ the rent increase, her Section 8 advisor C Mr. Flores C informed her that there was no record of her request. Mr. Flores instructed her to resubmit the request, but Ms. Crisales testified that she did not do so.

Defendant testified at trial that on February 3, 2011, she attempted to pay her portion of the rent C $115 C but plaintiff returned it to her on February 5, 2011. Defendant said she had resided at the premises since 2003, and had no prior incidents or problems dealing with the Section 8 program or with HACLA. Defendant said she Ahas been able to reach her worker at HACLA to address any issues related to inspections or certification each year.@

On March 25, 2011, the trial court issued its Statement of Decision. Therein, the court stated, inter alia, as follows: ABarrientos makes clear that the termination of the HAP contract can be done only for reasons sanctioned under LARSO. Thus, the termination attempted by plaintiff was unlawful and not effective. For that reason, defendant=s rent obligation remained that stated in the HAP contract at the time plaintiff served the 3-day notice, and the notice overstated the rent due.@ ...

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