California Supreme Court decides procedural question about quit notice service timing

By Karen Kidd | Jan 2, 2019

MorgueFile - Xenia

SAN FRANCISCO — California law requires that owners who acquire titles to real property in a deed of trust's power of sale must perfect that title before issuing a three-day written notice to quit the premises, the state Supreme Court ruled last month.

In its 17-page opinion handed down Dec. 17, the state's highest court reversed an earlier Second District Court of Appeal judgment in the case, Dr. Leevil, LLC v. Westlake Health Care Center, that a title need not be perfected before notice to quit is served.

The case involved a procedural question about when notice must precede an unlawful detainer action when it isn't a landlord but a property's new owner who is giving the notice, according to the opinion.  

"The question we decide is whether perfection of title, which includes recording the trustee's deed, is necessary before the new owner serves a three-day written notice to quit on the possessor of the property or whether perfection of title need only precede the filing of the unlawful detainer action," the opinion said. "We conclude that the new owner must perfect title before serving the three-day written notice to quit."


California Supreme Court Justice Ming W. Chin   swlaw.edu

Supreme Court Justice Ming W. Chin wrote the high court's opinion in which Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Carol A. Corrigan, Goodwin H. Liu, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Leondra R. Kruger and Fifth District Court of Appeal Associate Justice Rosendo Peña concurred. Peña had been assigned to the case by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye.

The case stems from a defaulted loan owned by Leevil on property own by a nursing facility business, Westlake Health Care Center, according to the background portion of the high court's opinion. The day following the trustee's sale, Leevil served three-day notice to Westlake Health to quit the property but Leevill waited an additional five days to record the deed.

Meanwhile, Westlake Health declined to vacate and Leevil filed suit, claiming unlawful detainer, to which Westlake Health responded with its own claim that Leevil's the notice to quit had been invalid because it arrived prior to being recorded.

The Second District Court ruled in Leevil's favor, claiming title didn't have to be recorded, or perfected, before notice to quit is served, that it was enough that the deed was recorded before Leevil sued for unlawful detainer.

The Supreme Court concluded an owner that acquires title under a deed's power of sale  must perfect that title before serving the three-day written notice to quit.

"In any event, our task is to read the statute as written, and for reasons already explained, we read the statute as calling for title to be perfected before the three-day notice is served," the opinion said.

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