The state Supreme Court has been asked to review an appellate court ruling that says a landlord cannot evict a tenant for failing to pay rent that exceeds the amount specified by local rent control guidelines.
If the case, which involves a Santa Monica landlord and tenant, is not reviewed by the Supreme Court, the decision will stand as a precedent in California. The court is expected to decide by October whether to review the case.
The appeal to the high court was filed on behalf of landlord Elis Nourafchan. Nourafchan's lawyer, Gordon Gitlen, refused to comment on the case because it is in litigation.
Attorney Don Franzen, who represents tenant James P. Miner in the case, said his client filed suit on ground that he could not be evicted for failure to pay rent because he had been charged rent for several years that was in violation of Santa Monica rent control laws.
Franzen argued that Miner had been paying an excess of $100 a month in rent since 1979. As a result, Franzen said, an eviction notice given Miner in August, 1983, should have been invalid. But Franzen said Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Weis ruled against his client when the case came to trial in January, 1984, and Miner was evicted a month later.
Franzen and his client appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. On June 25, the appellate court ruled that a landlord's failure to abide by local rent control laws is a defense against eviction for not paying rent, Franzen said.
Franzen said Nourafchan argued that he had a right to evict Miner because his rent was 25 days overdue. He also alleged that he and Miner had a verbal agreement to increase the rent, despite the rent control laws, in exchange for new furniture, Franzen said. Nourafchan could not be reached for comment.
Santa Monica Rent Control Board staff attorney Barbara O'Hearn said that if the case is reviewed, the Rent Control Board, which has filed briefs in support of Miner, will continue to participate.
The board's public information officer, Mary Dresser, said the board supported the tenant because the case could help in enforcement of Santa Monica rent control laws.