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Scott v. Kaiuum

Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Fresno

January 4, 2017

CANDY SCOTT, Defendant and Appellant,
v.
SHEIKH KAIUUM, Plaintiff and Respondent.

         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Fresno County, Lisa Gamoian, Judge. Reversed.[1]

          Central California Legal Services, Inc., Marcos Seguro, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Law Offices of Daniel A. Bruce, Daniel A. Bruce, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          OPINION

          Hon. Gary D. Hoff, Judge

         I.

         Introduction

         In this appeal from an unlawful detainer judgment, appellant Candy Scott (hereinafter “appellant”) contends that the trial court erroneously granted judgment in favor of respondent Sheikh Kaiuum (hereinafter “respondent”). She argues that the respondent was not allowed to evict her for failure to pay the full amount due under her rental contract because she was the beneficiary of subsidized rental payments under 42 U.S.C.A. 1937f, Section 8. She contends that the Fresno County Housing Authority had ceased making Section 8 payments on her behalf due to the respondent's failure to maintain the property in a habitable condition, and thus respondent should not have been allowed to declare her in breach of the rental agreement.

         We agree that it was respondent's conduct, not appellant's, that caused the Housing Authority to cease making Section 8 payments, and that respondent was not permitted by law to recover the unpaid amounts from appellant, or to declare her to be in breach of the lease when she failed to make the full payments. Therefore, we will reverse the trial court's judgment.

         II.

         Facts

         On January 14, 2015, appellant and respondent entered into a one-year residential rental agreement with rent set at the market rate of $700 per month. However, a portion of appellant's rent was subsidized through the Federal Section 8 program. In accordance with Section 8 regulations, respondent and the Fresno

         County Housing Authority entered into a Housing Assistance Payment Contract (“HAP contract”), which required the Housing Authority to pay respondent $684 of appellant's $700 per month rent each month starting on September 1, 2015. The HAP contract prohibited respondent from charging appellant more than $16 per month.

         On October 27, 2015, the Housing Authority sent respondent and appellant a letter stating that the property had failed a recent inspection, and listing multiple violations of the federal habitability standards, all but one of which were deemed to be caused by the owner. The letter warned that there would be another inspection on November 17, 2015, and that, if the defects were not cured by the time of that inspection, the Housing Authority would abate all further Section 8 payments effective December 1, 2015, and the HAP contract would be canceled effective December 17, 2015.

         On November 18, 2015, the Housing Authority sent respondent another letter, stating that the property had failed the second inspection, that the Housing Authority would abate Section 8 payments to respondent effective December 1, 2015, and that the HAP contract would be canceled on December 17, 2015 unless repairs were made before the cancelation date. There was an inspection report attached to the letter that listed multiple separate violations in appellant's unit and the common areas of the complex, all of which were all determined to be the responsibility of respondent owner. The letter also informed the respondent that it was “not permitted to recover monies from the resident.”

         Nevertheless, when rent came due on December 1, 2015, respondent demanded that appellant pay the entirety of the $700 rent under the rental agreement. When rent became past due on December 4, 2015, respondent served appellant with a three-day notice to pay or quit, again demanding the full $700 rental payment.

         When appellant did not pay rent or leave the premises, respondent filed his complaint for unlawful detainer on December 16, 2015. Appellant filed her answer on December 21, 2015, raising defenses based on lack of habitability and violation of the agreement with the Housing Authority. Trial was set for January 12, 2016.

         At the trial, Judge Lisa Gamoian found that respondent had failed inspections due to substandard conditions at the unit, and that the Housing Authority had given notice that Section 8 rent would not be paid to respondent if the violations were not cured. However, the court found that, because the deficiencies were not cured by the deadline, the Section 8 contract had terminated and thus appellant was required to pay the full amount of rent under the rental agreement. Therefore, the court granted the unlawful detainer judgment in favor of respondent and against ...


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