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Intelligent Investment Corp. v. Gonzales

Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Los Angeles

June 14, 2016

INTELLIGENT INVESTMENTS CORP., Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
MIGUEL GONZALES, Defendant and Appellant.

          APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County Central Trial Court No. 14U06637, Robert S. Harrison, Commissioner.

Page 2

         COUNSEL

         Daniel J. Bramzon, Ross T. Kutash and Claudia Medina of BASTA, Inc. for Defendant and Appellant.

         Law Offices of Dennis P. Block & Associates and Dennis P. Block for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          OPINION

          KUMAR, Acting P. J.

          Defendant and appellant Miguel Gonzales appeals the court’s denial of his motion for attorney fees after the voluntary dismissal by plaintiff and respondent Intelligent Investments Corporation of its unlawful detainer action. Defendant contends he was entitled to attorney fees pursuant to the fee shifting provision under Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) section 162.09.A.5, which applies to unlawful detainer actions involving property in the City of Los Angeles’s Rent Escrow Account Program

Page 3

(REAP), and therefore Civil Code section 1717, subdivision (b)(2), [1] did not bar recovery of fees. We agree and reverse the order.

          BACKGROUND

          On June 2, 2014, plaintiff filed an unlawful detainer action against defendant based on service of a three-day notice to perform covenants or quit. Attached to the complaint was a rental contract for the subject premises executed by defendant and landlord Gumersindo Bautista. Defendant answered the following week, generally denying each allegation in the complaint and asserting several affirmative defenses, including breach of the warranty of habitability, violation of the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, and retaliation. Two weeks later, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action.

          On July 25, 2014, defendant filed a motion for attorney fees. Defendant argued the property was in REAP[2] when plaintiff commenced the unlawful detainer action and that, pursuant to LAMC section 162.09.A.5, he was entitled to attorney fees as the prevailing party. In support of his motion, defendant submitted: a declaration stating he normally paid his rent to REAP; documentation showing plaintiff had notice the property was in REAP as of December 19, 2013; and receipts dated May 6, 2014, and June 2, 2014, reflecting payments defendant made to the REAP account.

          On September 2, 2014, the court denied defendant’s motion on the ground he had no ...


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