Multani v. Knight
Facts: A landlord leases a commercial property to a tenant. When the lease term expires, the landlord modifies the lease for a month-to-month tenancy, all of the other terms remaining the same. The tenant defaults on rent and is served with a three-day notice to pay rent or quit. The tenant fails to pay rent or quit during the notice period and the landlord files an unlawful detainer (UD) action. The tenant vacates the property, but fails to remove their personal property from the premises. After the expiration of the three-day notice period and during the UD action, the tenant’s personal property is damaged in a sewage spill. The tenant is later officially evicted under the UD action.
Claim: The tenant seeks money losses caused by damage to their personal property, claiming the landlord is responsible for its lost value since the tenant was in lawful possession of the property at the time of the sewage spill as the UD action was still pending.
Counterclaim: The landlord claims they are not responsible for the damage to the personal property since the tenant failed to remove it and had no right to possession of the premises when the sewage spill occurred due to their failure to pay rent under the three-day notice.
Holding: A California court of appeals holds the landlord is not responsible for the damage to the tenant’s personal property since the tenant failed to pay the delinquent rent under the three-day notice and was not in lawful possession of the premises when the sewage spill occurred. [Multani v. Knight (May 24, 2018)_CA5th_]
Editor’s note — The landlord properly demanded the tenant pay delinquent rent or vacate and surrender possession of the property by serving a three-day notice to pay rent or quit. Further, the rental agreement and the tenant’s right to possession were terminated on expiration of the three-day notice period, not when the UD action concluded. See the Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit form published by RPI (Realty Publications, Inc.). [See RPI Form 575 and 575-1]