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The personal reasons exception is an exception to the general rule on the standard of real property damages. Here’s some context.
Real property is your home, the land, and things permanently attached to the land, whether natural or artificial. You’re entitled to money if your real property was damaged because of someone’s negligence.
California law says that the standard of real property damages is 1) the reduction in the property’s value; or 2) the reasonable cost of repair, whichever is less. See CC § 3334(a).
Consider this example. A utility company negligently starts a fire and that fire burns your home. Before the fire, your home was worth $1 million. After the fire your home is worth $900,000. The reduction in your home’s property value is $100,000. But the reasonable cost of repair to your home is $200,000. $100,000 is less than $200,000, so you can only recover $100,000, not $200,000.
You “lose” $100,000 by following the general rule on the standard of real property damages. That’s why the personal reasons exception matters.
The exception simply means this: if you have a genuine desire to repair the property for personal reasons, and if the repair costs are reasonable, then you can claim the costs of repair even if they are higher than the property’s loss of value. You can claim $200,000 if you can show you have a genuine desire to repair the property for personal reasons.
Basically, show you live there. People have a genuine desire to repair their home. Most courts agree that the exception applies when there is some personal use and a bona fide desire to repair or restore.
For further research, read Heninger v Dunn (1980) 101 Cal.App.3d 858 and Kelly v CB&I Constructors, Inc. (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 442. See too Orndorff v Christiana Community Builders (1990) 217 Cal.App.3d 683.
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