In an unlawful detainer action brought by a landlord invoking the Ellis Act to avoid a local rent control ordinance’s controls on eviction, the trial court erred in excluding evidence that the landlord had entered into a phony deal to sell another unit of the building to its tenant.  The deal was relevant to show that the landlord’s true intent wasn’t to remove the units from the rental market but instead to continue in the rental business under a disguise of 100% seller-financed purchases of the rental units.  While a title isn’t normally an issue in an unlawful detainer action, this one turned on the landlord’s intent to withdraw the building from the rental market (or not), making the evidence of the landlord’s phony sale of another unit relevant.  The trial court abused its discretion in excluding that evidence under Evid. Code 352 since it would not have taken long or have appealed to the jury on improper emotional grounds.

California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 5 (Bruiniers, J.); July 30, 2018 (published August 28, 2018); 26 Cal. App. 5th 801