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Affirmative defenses for commercial tenants in California

Affirmative defenses for commercial tenants in California are the topic of this blog post. While some commercial tenants may be under the impression that few if any defenses exist, this is not always the case.  This blog post will discuss a few of the most common defenses that may be used in the right situations, but it does not cover every possible defense.

Most commercial landlords and their attorneys, and most likely many commercial tenants might scoff at the notion that a breach of the implied warranty of habitability could be available to any commercial tenant, even in California, this is not always the case for small commercial operations as stated in two Court of Appeal decisions.

Dictum suggests an implied warranty of habitability might “extend to small commercial operations if the facts warranted … ” Four Seas Investment Corp. v. International Hotel Tenants’ Ass’n (1978) 81 Cal. App. 3d 604, 613, (a residential tenancy case); also see Golden v. Conway (1976) 55 Cal. App. 3d 948, 962 (mixed-usage building with both commercial and residential units).

And commercial tenants can assert the defense of a retaliatory eviction by the landlord.  Retaliatory eviction is most often found in cases where the landlord is attempting to evict a tenant for an improper reason, raising their rent after the tenant has complained about problems with their rental, decreasing services, or other actions that are clearly meant as retaliation.

Both residential and commercial tenants have a common-law affirmative defense for retaliatory actions by the landlord. See Barela v Superior Court (Valdez) (1981) 30 Cal. 3d 244, 251.

In Barela v. Superior Court, supra, the California Supreme Court stated that “The retaliatory eviction doctrine is founded on the premise that a landlord may normally evict a tenant for any reason or for no reason at all, but he may not evict for an improper reason ….”  (internal citations and quotations omitted.)

And commercial tenants can also assert constructive eviction as an affirmative defense.

The concept of a “constructive eviction” exists under the principle of a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment that is implied in every rental agreement. A tenant may assert this ground as an affirmative defense when the landlord’s actions or omissions so interfere with the tenant’s right to “peaceful and beneficial possession” of the rental unit that the unit or a portion of it becomes uninhabitable.

If the landlord has rented the premises without obtaining any Certificate of Occupancy a commercial tenant may contend that any lease agreement for the Subject Property is not enforceable, thus the landlord cannot obtain any judgment for unpaid rent, although they are entitled to a judgment for possession.

Attorneys or parties in California that would like more information on a California eviction litigation document package containing over 25 sample documents can use the link shown below.

California eviction litigation document package

The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995.

View legal document packages for sale at: http://www.legaldocspro.net

If you enjoy this blog post, tell others about it. They can subscribe to the author’s weekly California legal newsletter by visiting the following link: http://www.legaldocspro.net/newsletter.htm

Copyright 2013 Stan Burman. All rights reserved.


Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.

These materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


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