In 2019, Rimma Boshernitsan and Mark Vinokur filed an unlawful detainer action. This action intended to evict tenants Belvia Bach and her four children. This action was filed under the San Francisco Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance in order to allow Vinokur’s mother to live in the unit. The ordinance gives landlords the ability to recover possession of units “in good faith, without ulterior reasons, and with honest intent,” for use by either themselves or their family members. This is possible after meeting certain other requirements.
Additionally, the ordinance requires that the landlord be a “natural person” or “group of natural persons.” The Tenderloin Housing Clinic persuaded the trial court to sustain the objection of the tenants, and to dismiss the case. Technically, the property was owned by a living trust’s trustee. Trustees are not natural persons, the trial court had ruled.
However, the Court of Appeal overruled the decision of the lower court. The Court of Appeal cited the 2018 deed, which transferred the interest in the building from the owners, Boshernitsan and Vinokur, to themselves as Trustees of The Vinokur and Boshernitsan Living Trust. This was revocable, thus a “living” trust.
The justices of the Court of Appeal held that trustees of living trusts are “natural persons” for the purposes of the ordinance. This is because the creators of the trust, a/k/a the settlors, were also the beneficiaries and trustees. Also, the court acknowledged that a living trust is a popular method of avoiding probate and managing assets during one’s lifetime. The ruling on the appeal sent the case back to trial court, with an order to process accordingly.
Boshernitsan et al. v Bach et al., California, First District, Div. One, A159532, March 12, 2021