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DeLisi v. Lam

Facts: A landlord purchases a multi-unit property subject to a local rent control ordinance under which a landlord may evict a tenant only when the landlord or an immediate family member is to occupy the vacated unit for at least 36 months. The landlord evicts one tenant and does not take possession for several months. The landlord serves a second tenant an eviction notice so the landlord’s sibling may occupy the second unit. The landlord’s sibling signs no formal rental agreement nor makes any rental payment arrangements with the owner, and previously indicated they considered moving from the area.

Claim: The tenant of the second unit seeks money losses as a result of their eviction, claiming the landlord violated the rent ordinance by evicting them in bad faith since the landlord’s informal arrangement with their sibling and the sibling’s prior statements signaled the landlord’s intention to use the sibling’s occupation as a pretext to evict the tenant of the second unit and later rent the unit at a higher price.

Counterclaim: The landlord claims they did not violate the rent ordinance since the ordinance’s provision that recovery of possession needs to be made with good faith and no ulterior motive is unconstitutionally vague.

Holding: A California appeals court holds the landlord violated the rent ordinance by evicting the tenant in bad faith since the landlord’s informal arrangement with their sibling and the sibling’s prior statements signaled the landlord’s intention to use the sibling’s occupation as a pretext to evict the tenant of the second unit and later rent the unit at a higher price. [DeLisi v. Lam (August 7, 2019)­_CA6th_]

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