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Notice to Pay or Quit based on Reasonable Estimate of Rent Due in Commercial Unlawful Detainers

Last month we discussed the importance of properly serving a notice to pay rent or quit in a commercial unlawful detainer setting where the lease has specific notice provisions.  Another area where commercial and residential unlawful detainer actions differ is how a landlord may state a rent demand on the notice to pay rent or quit.  This is important because we handle both types of unlawful detainer cases in Los Angeles and our Los Angeles based unlawful detainer attorneys understand the intricacies of the statutory procedures for 3 day notices to pay rent or quit.

Generally, a notice to pay rent or quit must state the precise amount of rent owed.  (Gages v. Bates (1870) 40 Cal. 384).  This requirement always applies in the residential unlawful detainer setting – any overestimation of the rent due on a notice to pay rent or quit in a residential unlawful detainer statute is almost always fatal.  However, in a commercial unlawful detainer setting, a landlord can elect to invoke Code of Civil Procedure § 1161.1.

Unlike in a residential unlawful detainer, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 1161.1, a commercial landlord can serve a notice to pay rent or quit with an estimated amount of rent due as long as:

1.     The amount of rent demanded on the notice to pay rent or quit is “reasonably estimated,” and

2.     The notice to pay rent or quit clearly identifies that the rent demanded is an estimate.

There is a presumption in favor of the landlord that the estimated rent demand is reasonable.  (See Code Civ. Proc. § 1161.1(e)).  However, if the landlord demands an amount that is 20 percent more or less than the amount that the Court determines to be actually due and owing, the burden of proof to prove reasonableness shifts to the landlord.  (See WDT-Winchester v. Nillson (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 516, 526).  If a plaintiff cannot establish that its estimate was reasonable, the notice to pay rent or quit is defective and cannot support a judgment for unlawful detainer.  (Id. at 535).  Therefore, when preparing a notice to pay rent or quit, always make sure you check and double check your rental calculations and have all the necessary documents to support your rental calculations.

For help with your Los Angeles Commercial Unlawful Detainer or your Los Angeles Residential Unlawful Detainer contact the real estate attorneys at Schorr Law, APC. You can send us an email at info@schorr-law.com, or give us a call at (310) 954-1877. Our contact form is also available for you to send us a message!

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