Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Los Angeles
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County,
Elaine Mandel, Judge. Affirmed. Central Trial Court No.
Office of Allen R. King and Allen R. King for Plaintiff and
Appellant Sleep EZ.
Neighborhood Legal Services, Alexander Prieto and Jeffrey Uno
for Defendants and Respondents Martiniano Mateo and Maximina
RICCIARDULLI, Acting P. J.
here that, when a tenant mails rent at a landlord's
direction and, through no fault of the tenant, the landlord
does not receive it, the tenant is not in default in the
payment of rent in an unlawful detainer action.
and appellant Sleep EZ appeals the judgment in favor of
defendants and respondents Martiniano Mateo and Maximina
Mateo. Plaintiff contends the judgment should be reversed
because it proved all the elements of its cause of action,
including that defendants defaulted in paying their rent. As
discussed below, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
alleged in its complaint that the parties had a written
agreement wherein defendants were to pay rent in the amount
of $523.98 per month, and defendants failed to pay rent as
indicated in an attached three-day notice to pay or quit. On
September 8, 2015, the statutory notice period expired with
defendants neither paying rent nor vacating their apartment.
Plaintiff requested it be awarded possession of the property,
along with damages, attorney fees, and costs. The three-day
notice indicated defendants were informed on September 5,
2015, that the rent of $523.98, which was due on September 1,
2015, had not been paid, and directed defendants to pay the
rent or vacate the property. Defendants answered, generally
denying the allegations in the complaint, including that they
had defaulted in paying their rent, and the case proceeded to
court trial on October 15, 2015, plaintiff's manager,
Victor Ricks, testified defendants rented one of
plaintiff's apartments pursuant to a written rental
agreement, a copy of which was admitted as an exhibit. The
agreement required defendants to pay $523.98 in rent on the
first of every month. Ricks instructed tenants to pay their
rent by mail to a post office box address, and to always pay
by money order. Ricks did not receive the September rent by
September 5, 2015, so he prepared a three-day notice. The
notice period expired, Ricks did not receive the rent, and
defendants remained in possession of the apartment.
Maximina Mateo testified Ricks instructed her family to pay
the monthly rent by sending money orders to a post office
box. On August 31, 2015, she purchased a United States Post
Office money order in the amount of $523.98. On this same
date, she mailed the money order to Ricks at the designated
post office box address, as she had done for the past 30
years she had been living in the apartment with her family. A
copy of the customer's receipt for the $523.98 paid to
the post office for the money order was admitted into
evidence. Ms. Mateo testified that, on the day of trial, she
received the envelope she had sent to Ricks back from the
post office with a yellow sticker stating it was
undeliverable. The sealed envelope addressed to Ricks was
admitted into evidence.
Mateo's 17-year-old son, Henry Mateo, testified that,
after the three-day notice was posted on their apartment
door, he made five to six attempts to speak with Ricks by
telephone to determine if the money order had been received.
He reached Ricks only once, and Ricks told him he had not yet
had a chance to check the post office box.
rebuttal, Ricks testified “he had never agreed that the
mailing of the rent would constitute payment, whether the
check was received or not.” Ricks further testified he
never received or successfully negotiated defendants'
money order for the September 2015 rent.
court rendered judgment in favor of defendants. In its
statement of decision, the court indicated it found as
follows: “1. Defendants purchased a money order for the
full amount of the rent due for September [¶] 2.
Defendants mailed the money order to Mr. Ricks, with postmark
August 31, 2015 [¶] 3. The Lease states that rent is to
be paid ‘to landlord by U.S. Mail.' [¶] 4. Mr.
Ricks did not receive the money ...