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A California Commercial Landlord Sends A Notice to Pay Or Quit To A Different Address Than The Lease Provides, The Tenant’s Agent Receives It. The Tenant Wins Because The Notice Went To the Wrong Address; Email Didn’t Count.

A commercial lease specified an address for service of notices. Here was a default, and the landlord sent notice to the tenant’s leasing agent (by mail, fax, and email), who was not at the address specified in the lease. The agent acknowledged receiving notice by email.

In the eviction action, the court ruled, in a slam-dunk decision, for the tenant because the notice went to the wrong address. First, although the leases’s notice provision varies from the unlawful detainer statutes, that is allowable in commercial leases.

Secondly, the landlord also emailed the notice to the agent. The landlord argued that, as email is not mailing address specific, it could have been received at the designated address. The court points out that this is a problem of the lease language, which does not indicate an acceptable electronic notification address.

Thirdly, the landlord argued that, as the agent acknowledged receiving the notice, that is personal service as some published decisions provide, as the post office can act as the process server. However, here, the email was not sent to the correct physical address, so it is in no way tantamount to personal service.

Lastly, even if there is an argument that actual receipt of the notice waives or forfeits the ability to challenge deficiencies in service in a residential situation, there is no basis to apply it to a commercial lease where service is prescribed in the lease itself.

Culver Center Partners v. Baja Fresh Westlake Village
(2010) 185 Cal App 4th 744.