Breaking it Down: What to Say and Do in an Unlawful Detainer or Eviction

Homeowners seem to have more options than they think in an unlawful detainer action based upon my analysis. It is the first time in a nonjudicial foreclosure where the foreclosing party is actually making assertions and representations against which the homeowner may defend. The deciding factor is what to do at trial. And the answer, as usual, is well-timed aggressive objections mostly based upon foundation and hearsay, together with a cross examination that really drills down.

Winning an unlawful detainer action in a nonjudicial foreclosure reveals the open sores contained within the false claims of securitization or transfer.

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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.

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HAT TIP TO DAN EDSTROM

Matters affecting the validity of the trust deed or primary obligation itself, or other basic defects in the plaintiffs title, are neither properly raised in this summary proceeding for possession, nor are they concluded by the judgment.” (Emphasis added.) (Cheney v. Trauzettel (1937) 9 Cal.2d 158, 159-160.) My emphasis added

So we can assume that they are specifically preserving your right to sue for damages. But also, if they still have the property you can sue to get it back. If you do that and file a lis pendens they can’t sell it again. If a third party purchaser made the bid or otherwise has “bought” the property you probably can’t touch the third party — unless you can show that said purchaser did in fact know that the sale was defective. Actual knowledge defeats the presumptions of facially valid instruments and recorded instruments.

The principal point behind all this is that the entire nonjudicial scheme and structure becomes unconstitutional if in either the wording of the statutes or the way the statutes are applied deprive the homeowner of due process. Denial of due process includes putting a burden on the homeowner that would not be there if the case was brought as a judicial foreclosure. I’m not sure if any case says exactly that but I am sure it is true and would be upheld if challenged.


It is true that where the purchaser at a trustee’s sale proceeds under section 1161a of the Code of Civil Procedure he must prove his acquisition of title by purchase at the sale; but it is only to this limited extent, as provided by the statute, that the title may be litigated in such a proceeding. Hewitt v. Justice’ Court, 131 Cal.App. 439, 21 P.(2d) 641; Nineteenth Realty Co. v. Diggs, 134 Cal.App. 278, 25 P.(2d) 522; Berkeley Guarantee Building & Loan Ass’n v. Cunnyngham, 218 Cal. 714, 24 P.(2d) 782. — [160] * * * In our opinion, the plaintiff need only prove a sale in compliance with the statute and deed of trust, followed by purchase at such sale, and the defendant may raise objections only on that phase of the issue of title

So the direct elements are laid out here and other objections to title are preserved (see above):

  • The existence of a sale under nonjudicial statutes
  • Acquisition of title by purchase at the sale
  • Compliance with statutes
  • Compliance with deed of trust

The implied elements and issues are therefore as follows:

  • Was it a Trustee who conducted the sale? (i.e., was the substitution of Trustee valid?) If not, then the party who conducted the sale was not a trustee and the “sale” was not a trustee sale. If Substitution of Trustee occurred as the result of the intervention of a party who was not a beneficiary, then no substitution occurred. Thus no right of possession arises. The objection is to lack of foundation. The facial validity of the instrument raises only a rebuttable presumption.
  • Was the “acquisition” of title the result of a purchase — i.e., did someone pay cash or did someone submit a credit bid? If someone paid cash then a sale could only have occurred if the “seller” (i.e., the trustee) had title. This again goes to the issue of whether the substitution of trustee was a valid appointment. A credit bid could only have been submitted by a beneficiary under the deed of trust as defined by applicable statutes. If the party claiming to be a beneficiary was only an intervenor with no real interest in the debt, then the “bid” was neither backed by cash nor a debt owed by the homeowner to the intervenor. According there was no valid sale under the applicable statutes. Thus such a party would have no right to possession. The objection is to lack of foundation. The facial validity of the instrument raises only a rebuttable presumption.

The object is to prevent the burden of proof from falling onto the homeowner. By challenging the existence of a sale and the existence of a valid trustee, the burden stays on the Plaintiff. Thus you avoid the presumption of facial validity by well timed and well placed objections.

” `To establish that he is a proper plaintiff, one who has purchased property at a trustee’s sale and seeks to evict the occupant in possession must show that he acquired the property at a regularly conducted sale and thereafter ‘duly perfected’ his title. [Citation.]’ (Vella v. Hudgins (1977) 20 Cal.3d 251,255, 142 Cal.Rptr. 414,572 P.2d 28; see Cruce v. Stein (1956) 146 Cal.App.2d 688,692,304 P.2d 118; Kelliherv. Kelliher(1950) 101 Cal.App.2d 226,232,225 P.2d 554; Higgins v. Coyne (1946) 75 Cal.App.2d 69, 73, 170 P2d 25; [*953] Nineteenth Realty Co. v. Diggs (1933) 134 Cal.App. 278, 288-289, 25 P2d 522.) One who subsequently purchases property from the party who bought it at a trustee’s sale may bring an action for unlawful detainer under subdivision (b)(3) of section 1161a. (Evans v. Superior Court (1977) 67 Cai.App.3d 162, 169, 136 Cal.Rptr. 596.) However, the subsequent purchaser must prove that the statutory requirements have been satisfied, i.e., that the sale was conducted in accordance with section 2924 of the Civil Code and that title under such sale was duly perfected. {Ibid.) ‘Title is duly perfected when all steps have been taken to make it perfect, i.e. to convey to the purchaser that which he has purchased, valid and good beyond all reasonable doubt (Hocking v. Title Ins. & Trust Co, (1951), 37 Cal.2d 644, 649 [234 P.2d 625,40 A.L.R.2d 1238] ), which includes good record title (Gwin v. Calegaris (1903), 139 Cal. 384 [73 P. 851] ), (Kessler v. Bridge (1958) 161 Cal.App.2d Supp. 837, 841, 327 P.2d 241.) ¶ To the limited extent provided by subdivision (b){3) of section 1161a, title to the property may be litigated in an unlawful detainer proceeding. (Cheney v. Trauzettel (1937) 9 Cal.2d 158, 159, 69 P.2d 832.) While an equitable attack on title is not permitted (Cheney, supra, 9 Cal.2d at p. 160, 69 P.2d 832), issues of law affecting the validity of the foreclosure sale or of title are properly litigated. (Seidel) v. Anglo-California Trust Co. (1942) 55 Cai.App.2d 913, 922, 132 P.2d 12, approved in Vella v. Hudgins, supra, 20 Cal.3d at p. 256, 142 Cal.Rptr. 414, 572 P.2d 28.)’ ” (Stephens, Partain & Cunningham v. Hollis (1987) 196 Cai.App.3d 948, 952-953.)
 
Here the court goes further in describing the elements. The assumption is that a trustee sale has occurred and that title has been perfected. If you let them prove that, they win.
  • acquisition of property
  • regularly conducted sale
  • duly perfecting title

The burden on the party seeking possession is to prove its case “beyond all reasonable doubt.” That is a high bar. If you raise real questions and issues in your objections, motion to strike testimony and exhibits etc. they would then be deemed to have failed to meet their burden of proof.

Don’t assume that those elements are present “but” you have a counterargument. The purpose of the law on this procedure to gain possession of property is to assure that anyone who follows the rules in a bona fide sale and acquisition will get POSSESSION. The rights of the homeowner to accuse the parties of fraud or anything else are eliminated in an action for possession. But you can challenge whether the sale actually occurred and whether the party who did it was in fact a trustee. 

There is also another factor which is whether the Trustee, if he is a Trustee, was acting in accordance with statutes and the general doctrine of acting in good faith. The alleged Trustee must be able to say that it was in fact the “new” beneficiary who executed the substitution of Trustee, or who gave instructions for issuing a Notice of Default and Notice of sale.

If the “successor” Trustee does not know whether the “successor” party is a beneficiary or not, then the foundation testimony and exhibits must come from someone who can establish beyond all reasonable doubt that the foreclosure proceeding emanated from a party who was in fact the owner of the debt and therefore the beneficiary under the deed of trust. 

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