Jordan v. Talbot
SC of CA- 1961
- P was tenant in D's apartment home.
- Lease provided that D had right of re-entry upon breach of condition in the lease and a lien upon all of P's personal effects to secure rent and other charges.
- P stopped paying rent after eight months.
- D entered w/o P's consent and removed P's furniture to a warehouse and refused to allow her back in her apartment.
- P filed action for forcible entry and detainer.
- Jury returned a verdict of $6.5k for forcible entry and detainer and $3k punitive damages.
- When is a defendant landlord's reentry unlawful under 1159 or 1160 of CA code?
- Is right of re-entry a defense to an action for forcible entry?
- Can a defendant landlord assert a right of re-entry provided for in the lease?
- A landlord's reentry is unlawful if it is forcible. Forcible entry is any entry that is not permitted by the tenant. No damage or actual violence is required.
- Right of re-entry is not a defense to an action for forcible entry.
- If a tenant is in peaceable actual possession, a defendant landlord cannot assert a right of reentry that is provided for in a lease until he has gone through the judicial process.
- Any lease allowing for forcible entry would be void as contrary to public policy.
- D contends that there is no evidence that he violated 1159 or 1160 of CA Code and therefore the verdict cannot be sustained.
- D's right of re-entry is not a defense to an action for forcible entry:
- P must show that he was peaceably in actual possession a the time of the forcible entry or was entitled to possession at the time of the forcible detainer.
- D can show in his defense that he was in quiet possession for over a year.
- Nowhere is it stated that a right of re-entry is a defense to an action for forcible entry or detainer and such a defense cannot be implied from the historical background or purpose of the statute.
- Both before and after the enactment of the statute, courts have held that it is not a defense.
- The inquiry is confined to the actual peaceable possession of the P and the unlawful or forcible ouster or detention by D.
- The object of the law is to prevent the disturbance of the public peace by forcible assertion of a private right.
- Absent a voluntary surrender by the tenant, a landlord can only enforce his right of re-entry through the judicial process.
- Any lease expressly permitting a forcible entry would be void as contrary to public policy.
- D was guilty of forcible entry:
- D violated Section1159 when he unlocked P's apartment w/o her consent. There does not have to be physical damage or actual violence.
- D also violated 1159 when he removed P's furniture and when D's employee yelled at P (as the jury could reasonably conclude that P believed any further attempts to enter would be met with force).
- D was guilty of forcible detainer:
- Force and menace can be implied from D's removal of furniture and his admonishment to "get the hell out of here."
- D did not properly serve a three-day notice, and so D had no right of possession.
- D was not authorized to enforce his lien by entering P's home:
- Lease does not specify a means of enforcement.
- Even if the lease had authorized forcible entry, it would be invalid due to public policy.
- The terms of the lease gave defendant a contractual right to enter the apartment and to remove the furnishings and therefore defendant has a complete defense to this action.
- In Baxley, it was held that there was no forcible entry because the D's entry was not accompanied by violence and was peaceable, not unlawful.
- Where there is no force involved in the entry, and where the entry is pursuant to a contract between the parties, the entry is lawful.
- D used a key and there were no threats of violence established.
- D had contractual right to possession so the taking of the belongings following lawful entry does not qualify as forcible detainer.
- Court is aligning itself on the side of the person who breached the contract.
- If the court had used contract doctrine, the tenant would have had to prove that the provision allowing reentry was unconscionable.
- Instead, the court uses property doctrine and says that the right to reentry is inalienable.