The meaning of “Commercial Real Estate” in the context of Unlawful Detainer Actions

Those who have practiced real estate sales will tell you that “residential real estate” is a dwelling unit containing one to four distinct living quarters and “commercial real estate” is all other buildings. While they are correct with respect to the types of contracts that would be used for the purchase, they are incorrect as to the technical meaning of the words, and that is a critical failure in do-it-yourself evictions.

The California Department of Real Estate publishes a “Real Estate Law” manual every year. The 2021 manual defines “commercial real property” on page 15. Like real estate salespersons, the book on law defines commercial real estate by exclusion. It defines it as “all” real property except a list of properties that are excluded.

That list of excluded properties includes some obvious items: single-family residences and mobile homes. Some people may be surprised to see that vacant land is excluded because it isn’t residential real property either, leaving it without a category. The confusing category is the exclusion of all “dwelling units made subject to Chapter 2 of Title 5 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code.” What the heck is that?!

Dwelling Units Subject to Chapter 2 . . .

Within Chapter 2 of Title 5 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, we find: “this chapter shall apply to all persons who hire dwelling units located within this state including tenants, lessees, boarders, lodgers, and others, . . . .” (Civ. Code, § 1940, subd. (a).) And it further defines “dwelling unit” as “a structure or the part of a structure that is used as a home, residence, or sleeping place by one person who maintains a household or by two or more persons who maintain a common household.” (Civ. Code, § 1940, subd. (c).)

What this means for the do-it-yourself eviction is that even though an 8-unit apartment building (for example) may have been purchased using a Commercial Real Estate Purchase Agreement, the real estate is not “commercial real estate” within the meaning of the law and within the meaning of the unlawful detainer court.

Similarly, this means that a building that has a commercial shop downstairs (say a butcher shop) and an apartment on the second floor is “commercial real property” with respect to the butcher shop but not “commercial real property” with respect to the apartment on the second floor. The idea that a single parcel can be both commercial real property and not commercial real property at the same time can be hard to grasp. The important takeaway is that “commercial real property” does not describe the parcel but the individual, distinct unit that can be rented or used.

Hire Professional Help

If you want the Kern County California eviction done correctly, hire Jared R. Clemence at Coleman & Horowitt. Call 661-325-1300.