It’s an unfortunate circumstance when a landlord has to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent or for breaking the lease term in some way.
State laws have very detailed requirements for landlords who want to end a tenancy. For purposes of this blog post, we will be focusing on California since that is where I’m located.
The California Eviction process typically starts with a written notice. Your landlord can’t evict you without terminating the tenancy first by giving you adequate written notice, in a specified way and form.
There are basically three types of termination notices when you have violated the rental agreement or lease in some way:
- Pay Rent or Quit Notices are typically given to you when you have not paid the rent. These notices give you a few days (typically 3 days) to pay the rent or move out (“quit”).
- Cure or Quit Notices are typically given to you if you violate a term or condition of the lease or rental agreement, such as a no-pets clause. Usually, you have 3 business days (Monday to Friday) in which to remedy, correct, or “cure,” the violation. Note: The 3 day period begins the day after the notice is served.
- Unconditional Quit Notices are the harshest of all. They order you to vacate the premises with no chance to pay the rent or correct a lease or rental agreement violation. Unconditional quit notices are generally used if you have:
- Repeatedly violated a significant lease or rental agreement clause
- Been late with the rent on numerous occasions
- Seriously damaged the premises in a purposeful way
- Causing a significant nuisance to other tenants
- Engaged in serious illegal activity, such as dealing drugs on the premises.
Even if you haven’t violated your Rental Agreement or been late paying your monthly rent, a Landlord can usually ask you to move out at any time if you don’t have a fixed term lease. However, the landlord has to give you a longer notice period. For instance a 60-Day Notice to Vacate to terminate a tenancy can be used if the Landlord wants to put the property on the market For Sale. It’s important to note that in California there are a few Rent Control cities that go beyond state laws and require the landlord to prove a legally recognized reason for termination. These laws are known as “just cause eviction protection.
Once proper Notice has been provided, if there is no remedy or cure within the specified time period provided, the Landlord would then file what is known as an Unlawful Detainer Complaint (UD). Once the document is properly prepared it must be served to the Tenant (Defendant) by some other than the Landlord (Plaintiff). The Tenant has 5 days to file a response (answer) with you and the Court. If the Tenant does not respond within the 5 day after being served, The Landlord can request a Default judgment from the Court. If the Default Judgment is granted, the Landlord will be given a Writ of Possession that they can then take to the local Sheriff to have them post a notice on the property notifying the Tenant that they will be forcibly removed if they don’t vacate within a specified number of days.
If the Tenant responds to your UD within the 5 days and decides to mount a defense, it could add weeks to the Eviction Process. A tenant can point to mistakes in the notice or the eviction complaint, or improper service (delivery) of either, in an attempt to delay or dismiss the case. The way the Landlord has conducted business with the Tenant can also affect the outcome (i.e, If the rental unit is uninhabitable in some way or the Tenant thinks the Landlord is retaliating in any way, this may excuse or shift attention away from the Tenant’s wrongdoing and diminish the Landlord’s chances of victory).
A trial date is set, typically with 21 days of the request. If the Tenant wins the case they will be permitted to pay any past due rent and remain in the property. The Landlord may be ordered to pay the Tenants court fees. If the Landlord wins the unlawful detainer lawsuit, they will get a judgment for possession of the property and be awarded any unpaid rent and possible court costs. The court will order the Sheriff to post a notice giving the Tenant 5 days to vacate. If the Tenant does not leave, the Sheriff will forcibly remove them.
The key to Eviction is to remember to provide the Tenant adequate notice and an opportunity to respond. However, unless you thoroughly know your legal rights and duties regarding eviction, and unless you dot every “i” and cross every “t,” you can easily end up on the losing side.
If you’re a renter and want more information on evictions, see Every Tenant’s Legal Guide, by Janet Portman and Marcia Stewart
If you’re a Landlord and want more information on evictions, see The California Landlord’s Law Book: Evictions, by David Brown, Attorney