Recently, the California Court of Appeals reviewed an action that essentially was a landlord-tenant dispute that had turned into a restraining order hearing. The case, Ewing v. Greenlee, is unpublished but provides some insight into when a restraining order is useful or not in a landlord-tenant dispute.

The case involved a rental home in Oakland, California. There was a month-to-month tenancy for storage and occasional occupancy. Two years after the Tenant moved into the property, the Tenant found that the Landlord was storing property in parts of the house and also sleeping in a portion of the house. The Tenant told the Landlord that the Landlord could not do this because the Lease gave the Tenant “exclusive use” over the property.

The Tenant alleged that the Landlord began to send harassing e-mails and showing up to the property without notice and with a large dog making the Tenant uncomfortable. In response, the Tenant filed a civil restraining order against Landlord claiming harassment. A hearing for the permanent restraining order was held. After taking testimony and evidence, the Court found that the Landlord was required to give the Tenant “exclusive use” and ordered the Landlord to remove his personal property and to stay away from the property except to perform “landlord duties” with 24 hours notice. Further, there was an order issued for the Landlord to stay away from the Tenant and to not possess firearms. The order was valid for three years.

In response, the Landlord appealed. Under Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.6, a civil restraining order may be granted for harassment. Harassment is defined as “unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be that which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner.” 

Here, the Appellate Court found that there was insufficient grounds to find that harassment occurred. Further, the Court found that this matter was a normal landlord-tenant matter, and that CCP Section 527.6 was not intended to be used by parties as an expedited process to handle real estate disputes. Here, the Court could not have ordered the Landlord to remove personal property from the house and to address the property rights dispute between Landlord and Tenant. Thus, the Court found the restraining order could be vacated.

If you are facing a civil restraining order, please contact Attorney Anthony Marinaccio at 818-839-5220 to discuss your matter.