The California Court of Appeal decided the case of Beach Break Equities, LLC v. Martin Lowell on Nov. 22, 2016, and released it for publication on Dec. 14, 2016. The case exemplifies the uncertainty that can exist for landlords even after they succeed in a legal action to evict a residential tenant.
The landlord, Beach Break Equities, filed an unlawful detainer action to evict Martin Lowell and recover possession of the premises rented by Lowell. The landlord was granted summary judgment in the unlawful detainer action, and Lowell appealed. While Lowell's appeal was pending, the landlord evicted Lowell and sold the property to a third party. On appeal, the court ruled not only that summary judgment should not have been awarded to the landlord, but also that the landlord owed restitution to Lowell for evicting him improperly.
The lesson to be learned by landlords from this case is that even if a landlord succeeds in a legal action to evict a tenant, evicting that tenant prior to the expiration of the tenant's time to appeal could expose the landlord to liability for restitution. Although an unlawful detainer action is an expedited proceeding, the appeals process for an unlawful detainer action is not. Therefore, a tenant has at least 60 days to appeal a decision in an unlawful detainer action. During this time, it may be in the landlord's best interest to leave the tenant in the premises to avoid potential liability for evicting the tenant too soon if the unlawful detainer decision is later reversed.
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