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Less is Not More But Lease is Enough
by Ron Davis

Can acceptance of partial rent from a tenant prevent a shopping center landlord from then taking eviction action?

The answer to that question depends on how well the landlord has crafted the lease between the two parties.

Consider a recent case in California involving a Los Angeles shopping center and one of its tenant. The owners of the shopping center had leased space to the tenant for the operation of a retail furniture store specializing in sofa sales. But after seven years in business, the tenant stopped paying rent.

That came on the heels of a remodeling of the tenantís premises. The project required him to suspend business for a short while, and he apparently believed that the amount of rent abatement the shopping center allowed him was insufficient.

The shopping center owners responded to the rent dispute with a written notice to the tenant stating that failure to pay back rent of $15,173 within three days would result in eviction. Prior to the expiration of the time limit, however, the tenant submitted a partial payment of $6,480, which the shopping center owners accepted.

Despite accepting the partial rent payment, the shopping center owners nevertheless notified the tenant that they were evicting him.

The tenant pointed out, however, that under California law, a landlord must actually notify a tenant in writing that accepting a partial payment of rent does not prohibit the landlord from evicting the tenant. And, the tenant added, the shopping center owners did not notify him as required.

The shopping center owners replied that the language of the lease served as notification. And the courts agreed.

In ruling in favor of the shopping center owners, a California appellate court explained, "The lease provides the tenant with actual notice that acceptance of the rent would not constitute a waiver of any breach except a breach with respect to the amount owed and accepted. It was not necessary for the lease to set forth an enumeration of the rights and remedies which would not be waived, given the specification of the sole circumstance under which acceptance of a rent would constitute a waiver by the shopping center owners." (Woodman Partners v. Sofa U Love, 114 Cal.Rptr.2d 566 [Cal.App. 2 Dist. 2001])

Decision: December 2001
Published: February 2002



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