As A Result, Tenant Who Wants To Arbitrate Can’t
California Code of Civ. Proc. section 1953(a) provides, “Any provision of a lease or rental agreement of a dwelling by which the lessee agrees to modify or waive any of the following rights shall be void as contrary to public policy: . . . (4) His procedural rights in litigation in any action involving his rights and obligations as a tenant.” The tenant’s “procedural rights” include rights to jury trial. So what happens when the landlord sues the tenant, and the tenant moves to compel arbitration of the dispute under an arbitration clause in the parties’ rental agreement? The tenant loses in Freile v. Lincecum, Case No. A135010 (1st Dist. Div. 3 Feb. 20, 2013) (Siggins, J., author 3:0) (unpublished).
The result follows from the plain language of the statute: the arbitration clause, which changes the tenant’s procedural rights, is “void” and therefore unenforceable.
Two comments: First, to reach the result, the Court must conclude that any provision altering the tenant’s procedural rights is void, even when it is the tenant who seeks to invoke it, for his own good or convenience. Second, the Court did not address the viability of such a provision under the Federal Arbitration Act.
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