A Landlord Had The Right To Enter
Dromy v. Lukovsky
(Cal. Ct. of App., 2d Dist.), filed August 30, 2013, published August 30, 2013
Donald Dromy owned a condominium in Santa Monica. In 1994, the prior owner leased it to Marina Lukovsky.
In 2010, Dromy sought to sell the condominium and entered into a listing agreement with a licensed real estate agent. Although Lukovsky had allowed the agent to privately show the property to prospective purchasers by appointment, she had refused to permit open houses on weekends.
Frustrated by what he perceived to be an undue barrier to his ability to sell the property, Dromy filed a complaint for declaratory relief against Lukovsky. In it, Dromy sought a declaration regarding his rights and duties under Civil Code Section 195.4 to enter property for the purpose of exhibiting it to prospective purchasers.
The trial court granted a summary judgment in Dromy’s favor. The resulting judgment provided that Dromy’s designated licensed real estate agent shall be entitled to hold two open houses per month. It further stated that open houses “may be held on weekend days between 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.” and that Dromy’s designated agent “shall be present and defendant may be present during any and all such open houses.” Finally, the judgment stated that Dromy’s designated agent “shall give 10 days advance email notice to defendant of proposed weekend open house dates, and defendant shall respond within 48 hours of receipt of same acknowledging the proposed dates or providing alternative weekend dates.”
Lukovsky filed a timely notice of appeal of the judgment.
HOLDING & REASONING
The Court of Appeal affirmed.
The court first reiterated the rules for summary judgments. It then reiterated those applicable to statutory interpretation. Having done so, the court turned to Section 195.4, which addressed a landlord’s right of entry.
Section 195.4 permits a landlord to enter the property to show it to prospective purchasers, but requires that it be during regular business hours. However, it did not say if regular business hours included weekends, which was when prospective buyers generally looked at listed properties.
After concluding that the legislative history on Section 195.4 included weekends, the court affirmed.
While the landlord scores a litigation victory, this seems like the type of situation that is typically better resolved through negotiation. After all, the court gave the defendant the right to be in the property when prospective purchasers attend these “open houses.” That’s probably not the ideal situation from the perspective of the owner who is trying to sell property.
On the other hand, this case shows that residential tenants do not always win legal battles with their landlords in California.