You’re likely reading this post because you’re not one of the fortunate landlords who have a tenant who pays rent promptly, maintains the property well, and abides by all rules and regulations.
Your tenant may have driven you to the point where you’re considering evicting them because they seem to have sprung from hell’s pit.
In California, there are numerous laws that protect tenants’ rights, and for you to evict a difficult tenant you must follow a set of legal procedures.
Self-help evictions, in which you physically throw out the tenant, cut off the utilities, or use other measures to forcibly remove them, are illegal and may lead to a lawsuit from the tenant. If they win the litigation, you may be required to pay them thousands of dollars in damages.
I’ll walk you through the steps necessary to evict a renter in California lawfully in the following sections.
The Californian Eviction Process in 4 Steps
Give a Notice of Eviction to the Tenant
You want your tenant to leave, but why? The tenant must be informed in writing of the response to this question; this action is known as giving notice.
A notice cautions a tenant that if they don’t resolve a problem or vacate, you’ll take legal action. Usually, only 3 days to a month or two are given as notice.
Some justifications you could use to serve a renter with an eviction notice include:
- They’ve ceased paying rent or are not paying it on time
- They’re causing damage and value loss to the property. Legally, this is referred to as committing waste.
- They have violated the terms of the rental agreement and refuse to correct the situation (for example, they continue to keep a snake when pets are not permitted)
- They consistently throw loud parties that bother other renters, for instance, making them a major annoyance
- They are engaging in criminal activity, such as selling drugs on the premises
- You wish to reside in your house
You cannot serve a tenant with an eviction notice for the following reasons:
- Physical or mental impairment, race, religion, sex, nationality, or sexual orientation
- They’re getting government aid
- To punish the tenant for making a complaint against you
The eviction notice you fill out and deliver to a tenant depends on your motivation to kick them out.
For instance, you might send a renter a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit (move out) if they’re late on their rent payments. Take note that 3-Day Notices in California do not include Saturdays, Sundays, or court holidays.
You’ll issue a tenant with a 3-Day Unconditional Notice to Quit if they violate the terms of the lease in a profound manner, like selling drugs, or do something that cannot be undone. As a result, they are evicted without having the chance to make good on the offense.
Additionally, 30-Day and 60-Day Notices are used by landlords to terminate month-to-month leases.
You would give a tenant who has been there for less than a year a 30-Day Notice to Quit, for instance, if you’ve sold your home and the new owner intends to move in. You must provide them with a written 60-Day Notice to Quit if they’ve occupied the property for more than a year.
To ensure you use the appropriate notice and fill it out correctly, speak to an experienced real estate attorney. They can help you avoid losing an eviction lawsuit due to a notice containing errors or omitting crucial details, which happens a lot.
One of the most frequent defenses tenants raise in eviction proceedings is that the notice wasn’t properly served. Therefore, after preparing the notice make sure you serve it to the tenant properly.
You may make sure the tenant is appropriately served in several ways.
- You can deliver the notice to them in person. If they refuse to accept the notice, you may serve them by leaving it next to them on the ground.
- At the tenant’s home or place of employment, you could leave the notice with a person above the age of 18. Sending them a copy of the notice is required if you do this.
- If the tenant is doing a good job of evading you, you could send them a copy of the notice in addition to nailing it to their door.
File an Eviction Case
After receiving a notice, a tenant can do three things. Comply with it by, for example, paying any unpaid rent within three days, move out, or ignore it.
Upon expiration of the notice period, you may file an eviction lawsuit in court if they fail to comply with your demands.
You’ll be asking a judge to compel the tenant to vacate your property and pay you if they’ve unpaid rent when you go to court.
Four court forms must be completed to start this litigation, known as an unlawful detainer:
- Summons – Unlawful Detainer-Eviction
- Complaint – Unlawful Detainer
- Plaintiff’s Mandatory Cover Sheet and Supplemental Allegations-Unlawful Detainer
- Civil Case Cover Sheet
Again, I urge you to get legal counsel to assist you in filling out and submitting this paperwork to your local courthouse where your eviction case will be heard since they contain a significant lot of legalese and it is crucial that they are completed accurately.
When you file the forms, you’ll be required to pay a fee. The cost ranges from $240 to $450. Fill out a form to request a fee waiver if you are unable to pay this cost.
You’ll submit the original and copies of the forms to the court clerk’s office when you file your lawsuit. They’ll stamp each form, keep the original, and give you back the copies.
One copy will be for your records, and one copy will be served to the tenant as notification that an eviction case has been initiated against them.
A Judge Decides
A tenant has five business days, if served personally, or 15 days if served otherwise, to respond to an eviction lawsuit after it has been served upon them.
Saturdays, Sundays, and court holidays are not included in the five days.
Once the tenant has been served, several things can occur:
- They may opt to leave voluntarily, in which case you can have the eviction case closed or dismissed. You can bring a civil lawsuit over unpaid rent if they leave without paying their outstanding balance.
- They might request that you settle things outside of court. You could work with a mediator to come to a compromise. If you do agree, the eviction lawsuit can also be dropped.
- They can choose not to answer your eviction complaint. in which case you’ll petition the court to issue a default judgment—a ruling made without a trial that enables you to evict the tenant. As soon as the five days allotted for a tenant to reply to your case expire, you can submit a default judgment request.
- They could bring a motion to quash or a demurrer in which they argue that you filed the eviction lawsuit incorrectly or that they weren’t properly served.
- They may respond to your lawsuit, which would indicate that they intend to challenge the eviction in court. To have a trial date set for your eviction case in this situation, you must file a Request to Set Case for Trial-Unlawful Detainer form.
Within 20 days of your request, the court will likely schedule a trial, which typically lasts an hour.
If you succeed in court, the judge will grant you a Writ of Execution, enabling you to evict a problematic tenant from your property legally.
The Tenant Must Move Out
The Writ of Execution may be issued a few days after the trial or on the day it is over.
Take the document to your county sheriff’s office as soon as you receive it, and they’ll serve the renter you wish to evict with it within 3 to 15 days.
After being served with this last eviction notice, the tenant has five days to remove their possessions from your home.
The sheriff may forcibly evict the tenant if they don’t leave during the notice period, and at that point, you can change the property’s locks to keep the tenant out.
Typically, the eviction process lasts 30 to 45 days.
Gallagher Krich, APC: Experienced San Diego, California, Real Estate Attorneys
California has complicated eviction regulations, and as a landlord ensuring you precisely follow these laws when evicting a tenant can be challenging.
One mistake in the process can have your eviction case dismissed in court or cause you to be fined if a tenant sues you successfully.
While the attorneys at Gallagher Krich, APC, do not handle tenant law specifically, we have more than 30 years of legal experience and can assist you with a wide range of complex California real estate law matters.
Call Gallagher Krich, APC, to arrange a free consultation at (858) 926-5797.