Friday, August 30, 2013

Dromy v. Lukovsky (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 30, 2013)

This opinion resolves a straightforward question:  What are "normal business hours"?

The Court of Appeal hold that "normal business hours" include 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

On Saturdays and Sundays.

My guess is that if I asked you what normal business hours were, you would not include Saturdays and Sundays.  And that if you were interviewing at a law firm, and asked 'em what hours they kept, and they responded "Normal business hours," you'd be pretty bummed if you found out they expected you to work from nine to five every single day of the week.

Even Skadden ain't that bad.

In this particular case, the statute allows a landlord to enter a rented condo "during normal business hours" for various purposes.  Including showing it to prospective buyers.  No biggie.

But the landlord here doesn't just want to show the place to isolated buyers.  He wants to hold open houses in the thing.  On the weekends.  All afternoon.  Nearly every other weekend.

Presumably until he either sells the thing or harasses the tenant enough for her to move out.

I understand and appreciate that open houses are usually on weekends.  But I'd have preferred to see a reciprocal understanding by the Court of Appeal (1) that it's exceptionally possible to sell a condo without an open house -- indeed, I bet a huge number (if not most) of them are sold by merely listing 'em on the MLS and giving private showings or letting the buyer's agent use the lockbox, and (2) that there's a real danger in letting landlords abuse this right as a means of driving out an "unfavorable" tenant.

The thing about the weekends is that -- unlike "normal business hours" -- you're generally in your home during this period.  Letting a landlord pop in while you're at work and (if you have them) your kids are at school is no biggie.  Letting your landlord take over your home for an entire afternoon on the weekends, which forces you to flee the place every other week, is a much bigger deal.

Imagine that you have a tenant you don't like.  She's got rent control.  She's got kids.  She requires you to actually do repairs.  Whatever.  She's a huge pest.  Here's an easy solution for you:  Put the place up for sale.  Set the price at 20% or so above market.  If you get a sale, great.  Huge profit.  That almost certainly will not happen.  But like you care.  You hold open house after open house.  Two weekends a month.  Like here.  If it takes a year, so be it.  No skin off your back.  Not like you've got to do anything.  You're not even there.

My bet's that your tenant gives up soon, and vacates the place. Victory.  At a minimum, you've taught her who's boss.  (And good luck if she tries to "prove" that you don't really want to sell the place.  Who doesn't want to make a 20% profit?)

Maybe -- maybe -- I'd let an occasional open house.  Maybe once every couple of months, or -- if you really pushed me, and showed me that it was absolutely essential -- once a month.  Though even that would end after three or four months.  At that point, you're not getting a sale that way.

But I'm heavily leaning towards saying that "normal business hours" don't include the weekends.  Unless it's for exceptionally limited intrusions.

If a faucet breaks on the weekend, and the landlord wants to come in on the weekend for an hour and fix it, fine.  If a private party wants to come in on a Saturday and look the place over for ten or fifteen minutes to see if they want to buy it, I'm generally okay with that.

But entirely taking over the place -- repeatedly -- for entire Saturday afternoons?

No thanks.