Defenses available to commercial tenants in California

The affirmative defenses available to commercial tenants served with an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit in California is the topic of this blog post. Many commercial tenants may be under the impression that very few defenses exist. This is not always the case. This blog post will discuss a few of the defenses that may be used in the right situations, but it does not cover every possible defense, only the most common ones.

For example, while most commercial landlords, and many commercial tenants might scoff at the notion that a breach of the implied warranty of habitability could be available to any commercial tenant, even in California, this is not always the case for small commercial operations as stated in two Court of Appeal decisions.

And commercial tenants can assert the defense of a retaliatory eviction by the landlord. Retaliatory eviction is most often found in cases where the landlord is attempting to evict a tenant for an improper reason, raising their rent after the tenant has complained about problems with their rental, decreasing services, or other actions that are clearly meant as retaliation.

Both residential and commercial tenants have a common-law affirmative defense for retaliatory actions by the landlord. See Barela v Superior Court (Valdez) (1981) 30 Cal. 3d 244, 251.

In Barela v. Superior Court, supra, the California Supreme Court stated that “The retaliatory eviction doctrine is founded on the premise that a landlord may normally evict a tenant for any reason or for no reason at all, but he may not evict for an improper reason ….” (internal citations and quotations omitted.)

And commercial tenants can also assert constructive eviction as an affirmative defense.

The concept of a “constructive eviction” exists under the principle of a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment that is implied in every rental agreement. A tenant may assert this ground as an affirmative defense when the landlord’s actions or omissions so interfere with the tenant’s right to “peaceful and beneficial possession” of the rental unit that the unit or a portion of it becomes uninhabitable.

If the landlord has rented the premises without obtaining any Certificate of Occupancy a commercial tenant may contend that any lease agreement for the Subject Property is not enforceable, thus the landlord cannot obtain any judgment for unpaid rent, although they are entitled to a judgment for possession.

The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995. If you are in need of assistance with any California or Federal litigation matters, Mr. Burman is available on a freelance basis. Mr. Burman may be contacted by e-mail at DivParalgl@yahoo.com for more information. He accepts payments through PayPal which means that you can pay using most credit or debit cards.

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Copyright 2012 Stan Burman. All rights reserved.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.

These materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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About Stan Burman

Freelance paralegal working in California and Federal litigation since 1995.
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