Fee Entitlement Does Not Have To Be Shown At Trial.
In Active Properties, LLC v. Cabrera, Case No. BV031320 (L.A. Superior Court, Appellate Division Dec. 9, 2016) (published), the appellate division faced an interplay between Code of Civil Procedure section 1174.21, a provision allowing a tenant to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from an unlawful detainer-prosecuting landlord found liable for a violation of Civil Code section 1942.4, which allows a tenant to recover damages and beat a UD action by proving specified substandard inhabitability conditions.
What happened was that residential tenant won a jury trial against a suing landlord based on inhabitable premises under Civil Code section 1942.1, determining that back rent obtained by landlord had to be disgorged to tenant. After the jury win, tenant moved to recoup fees and costs under section 1942.2, but the lower court denied this request on the basis that 1942.2 liability had not been litigated at trial so that 1174.21 fee entitlement was lacking.
The Appellate Division reversed. It resolved the interplay between the two statutes in favor of section 1174.21, determining it was pro-tenant and did not require that the 1942.2 liability determination be made just at trial. Rather, tenant could prove the liability in a posttrial noticed motion as long as the papers did show landlord was liable under 1942.2—even after the 1942.1 win before the jury.