Kirsten and I (and our dogs, Chili and Harlow) rented a home last fall in Santa Barbara. The home was well worn and well lived in (the owners did not maintain the home to my standards ;-)). We also paid a propane charge for the pool and hot tub and an exit cleaning fee. We paid too much but it was COVID. Of course, we took very good care of the home for the seven weeks we were there. When we departed, we left the home in immaculate condition. To our surprise, the owners refused to return our security deposit. After some back and forth, she returned all but $1300. We still found this unfair, unwarranted and totally unsubstantiated. She was simply being piggy. She then went radio silent. After two demand letters, Kirsten and I decided to bring an action against her in the Small Claims Court in Santa Barbara County. The problem was service of process. She and her family had retreated to Hawaii for COVID, and after several requests, she just refused to provide us with her address. Her property manager also refused to give us the Hawaii address. We tried to find her, but to no avail. I then filed a 25-page motion (including exhibits) asking the judge for permission to serve the defendants by publication in the local newspaper. The deputy clerk was very pessimistic telling me that the judge rarely grants such motions. Within one hour of receipt by the court of my motion, the deputy clerk called me to tell me that the judge signed my motion. We were happy. We then published a notice of our legal action against the defendants in the Santa Barbara News-Press for four consecutive weeks. She did show up at the first court date, for which I thoroughly prepared, and which was several months ago (she finally accepted service by certified mail, which was forwarded to her in Hawaii by the US Postal service). The trials are held on Zoom. But since she failed to send us her court exhibits pursuant to the clearly communicated court rules, the judge granted her a continuance until this past Tuesday. On Monday, I again prepared for several hours. On Tuesday, the defendants failed to show! We were granted a default judgement against the defendants. Yes, a bit anti-climactic. We made a motion for our expenses ($523.17, which we should get), statutory prejudgment interest ($78.71, which we should get) and for double the amount due under the California’s bad faith provision (an additional $2600, which I doubt we will get). We intent to take our judgement, lien her homes (she has two), accrue interest at the statutory rate of 10 per cent per year, and wait for her to sell one of her Santa Barbara homes (we will get paid at closing). I thought the California Small Claims Court worked rather well. A time consuming pain in the butt, but after eight months, we feel vindicated. I did fail to mention that shortly after filing our case, we received a letter from Judge Judy inviting us to transfer the case to her TV court room in Los Angeles. They promised a free, all expense paid trip to Los Angeles. We declined Judge Judy’s offer.
77Eric Kaminetzky, Gayle Slamowitz and 75 others39 CommentsLikeCommentShare