Several of the affirmative defenses available to commercial tenants served with an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit in California are discussed in this article.
Many commercial tenants may be under the impression that very few defenses exist that they can utilize. That is not always the case. This article 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 also 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.
The California Supreme Court stated over 30 years ago that both residential and commercial tenants have a common-law affirmative defense for retaliatory actions by the landlord. In that same case, the California Supreme Court also 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… ”
And there is NO time limit for the common-law defense of retaliatory eviction although waiting too long to assert that defense is obviously not a good idea.
Commercial tenants in California 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. Many jurisdictions in California, both City and County jurisdictions, require that a Certificate of Occupancy be obtained before any building can be occupied.
The author sincerely hopes you have enjoyed this article and found it informative.
The author of this article, 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 article is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.