I am seeking advice on whether or not I have a good chance of winning an unlawful detainer case. I was served with a 3 day notice on a Thursday, and on that notice it was stated that rent could be paid Mon-Fri. We went off of what that notice said and didn't count the weekend, leaving us with the last day as Tuesday. I tried to drop off rent on that day and the manager told me the landlord instructed her not to take it and that he'd be filing an unlawful detainer suit. We are under rent stabilization and I am assuming they just want to rent the apartment at market rate. Do I have a good chance of winning if I take on the case or would it be better to back out?
You may have misread the notice. The payment was due within the 3 day period, and if you missed the deadline, the landlord had the right to refuse a late payment.
The reference to "Mon-Fri." probably was just referring to what the office's normal business hours were, and would not extend the 3 day deadline.
In any event, you should not walk away from a rent-controlled, and should immediately consult a local landlord-tenant attorney for assistance.
Even if you have no potential defenses to the unlawful detainer (e.g. a procedural error in the notice, breach of the implied warranty of habitability, illegal rent overcharges, etc.), you would have the right to petition the court under Code of Civil Procedure Section 1179 to essentially reinstate your tenancy. Such petitions are discretionary, but if you made a good faith mistake, and agree to pay the rent, the landlord's legal expenses, etc., you certainly have a shot.
When a three day notice is served on Thursday, the third day would typically be considered on Sunday. If there is no location for you to pay your rent on the weekend, then you would need to pay rent on Monday morning to the location that has reopened on that weekday. By waiting until Tuesday, when you should have paid on Monday, the Landlord and/or property management company could lawfully refuse your rent.
If Monday was a legal holiday and you could not pay the rent on that day, then they should have accepted your tender of rent on Tuesday. If this is the case, then your written Answer filed with the Court should include an an Affirmative Defense, this explanation so the Court can consider your argument prior to making a ruling.
Maurice A. Priest
Real Estate Attorney
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