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Banuelos v. LA Investment, LLC

California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division

September 3, 2013

KEVIN BANUELOS, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
LA INVESTMENT, LLC, et al., Defendants and Respondents.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION [*]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. TC023725 Rose Hom, Judge.

Law Office of Spix & Martin, Richard L. Spix and D. Elizabeth Martin for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Law Offices of Douglas W. Beck & Associates and Douglas W. Beck for Defendants and Respondents.

ROTHSCHILD, J.

The trial court dismissed Kevin Banuelos’s third amended complaint after sustaining the defendants’ demurrer to all causes of action without leave to amend. We hold the complaint states a cause of action for retaliatory eviction under Civil Code section 1942.5 and that this cause of action is not barred by the litigation privilege of Civil Code section 47, subdivision (b). We affirm the judgment as to the remaining causes of action.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

Background: Banuelos I.

In 2008, Banuelos brought an action against the owners and managers of Park Granada, a mobile home park in Carson. Banuelos alleged that he was the owner of a mobile home located on Space 23 at Park Granada and that defendants refused to accept his application for tenancy of the space in violation of Civil Code section 798.74, which limits the right of a mobile home park owner to refuse tenancy to a “purchaser” of a mobile home in the park.[1] According to Banuelos’s complaint, defendants refused to accept his rent applications for the space in order to force him to sell them his mobile home for little or no consideration since it would be practically impossible for him to move it from the space. Banuelos sued the defendants for violation of section 798.74 and various torts.

The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to each cause of action and we affirmed the judgment in an unreported opinion (Banuelos I).[2] We held that Banuelos could not state a cause of action under section 798.74 for failure to approve his tenancy because he had received the mobile home as a gift and therefore he was not a “purchaser.” Similarly, we held that he could not state a cause of action for negligence against the defendants because they owed him no duty under section 798.74. We further held that Banuelos could not state a cause of action for landlord retaliation under section 1942.5 because there was no landlord-tenant relationship between Banuelos and the park at the time of the alleged retaliatory actions.

Background: Banuelos II.

In May 2009 a new owner of Park Granada rejected Banuelos’s application for tenancy. Notwithstanding that rejection, Banuelos tendered monthly space rental checks to the owner. The owner returned each check. In May 2010, Banuelos sent a check for $4, 200 to the owner’s attorney, accompanied by a letter stating that the check was for 14 months space rent commencing April 2009. The owner’s attorney did not return this check but deposited it in his client trust account. The following month, however, the owner filed an unlawful detainer action against Banuelos seeking possession of Space 23. The case was tried to a jury, which returned a general verdict with special findings in favor of Banuelos. Banuelos maintains his tenancy commenced in May 2010 when defendants accepted his rent check.

Background: Banuelos III.

Prior to the verdict in Banuelos II, Banuelos filed this action against 218 Properties and LA Investment, LLC, which he alleged to be the joint owners of Park Granada. Banuelos also sued the managers of the property. The third amended complaint, filed in August 2011, following the verdict in Banuelos II, charges defendants with statutory and common law retaliation, bad faith, intentional and negligent interference with economic advantage and negligence. Defendants demurred to each count of the complaint on the ground that it failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. The trial court sustained the demurrers without leave to amend and dismissed the action as to all defendants except 218 Properties, which had a pending cross-complaint against Banuelos.

Banuelos filed a timely appeal.

DISCUSSION

I. THE COMPLAINT STATES A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR RETALIATION UNDER SECTION 1942.5 BUT NOT UNDER THE COMMON LAW.

A. Retaliation Under Section 1942.5

Under section 1942.5 it is unlawful for a lessor to “bring an action” against a lessee to “recover possession... for the purpose of retaliating against the lessee because he or she... has lawfully ...


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