As a California landlord, you will likely need to evict a tenant sometime in your career. Once a landlord files for eviction, the tenant will either have to remedy the violation, contest the eviction or move out.
If your tenants are not paying rent, or if your tenants violate the terms of the lease agreement, for instance, then you can evict them. However, when trying to remove a tenant from your rental unit, you must follow the California eviction laws, part of the California landlord-tenant law.
For example, you cannot attempt to force out your tenant by engaging in “self-help” eviction tactics, such as removing the tenant’s belongings or personal property, locking them out of the rental unit, or shutting off their utilities, as per the lease agreements’ basic terms.
With that in mind, here is the legal, step-by-step eviction process in California.
Step #1: Notice of Eviction
The California eviction law states that serving a notice is the first step to evicting a tenant in California. The written notice simply tells a tenant why they are being evicted and gives them a certain time (in some cases) to remedy it.
Depending on the violation committed, there are different types of notices to serve. If you fail to serve the proper notice, the tenant may be able to use that as defense in the court hearing.
The following are various potential violations and the type of notices you’d have to serve tenants:
- Nonpayment of Rent (Unpaid Rent): If the tenant fails to pay rent on time, you can initiate the eviction process in California by serving the tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Pay. When you give a tenant notice, they have the option to either pay rent or move out within 3 days. If they don’t pay or move out within the 3 days, you can continue with the California eviction process.
- Lease Violation: You can also evict a tenant for failing to uphold the terms of the lease agreement or rental agreement, including refusing to pay rent. This can mean subletting without approval, keeping an unauthorized pet, exceeding the rental limit and more. In this case, you must serve them a 3-Day Notice to Comply.
- Holdover Tenants: A holdover tenant is one who continues staying in a rental unit even after the lease agreement or rental agreement has expired. For tenancies less than a year, you must serve the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit. And for tenancies exceeding one year, you must serve them a 60-Day Notice to Quit. Here, the only option the tenant has is to move out. They don’t have the chance to fix the lease violations.
- Foreclosure of Property: You may also be able to evict certain tenants if your rental unit is being foreclosed upon. Here, you’ll need to serve the tenant with a 90-days’ written notice. If the tenant doesn’t move out after the 90 days lapse, you can move to court and seek their removal.
- Illegal Activity: You may be able to evict some tenants for illegal activity by giving them a 3 days’ notice. This can be prostitution, illegal firearm activity, and illegal drug manufacturing and distribution. The tenant doesn’t have any other option than to leave.
Step #2: Summons & Complaint
Under California law, if the tenant refuses to move out or ‘cure’ the violation (in some cases), then after the initial notice period is over, you can move to court and file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. An unlawful detainer lawsuit is an eviction case within the legal process. An unlawful detainer lawsuit can cost you anywhere between $380 and $440 in filing fees and attorney’s fees.
Additionally, you may also need to pay the court an extra $40 for a Writ of Execution should the court rule in your favor during the eviction proceedings’.
After the tenant has been successfully served with an eviction lawsuit, the tenant will be given a chance to respond to your claims. A tenant exercising their right to fight your claims will be given a trial date to plead their case. This does not require a separate filing fee on your part.
If the tenant doesn’t respond, the court decides to issue a default judgment in your favor for the eviction lawsuit. But if not, then the court will set a date for the hearing.
Step #3: Hearing & Judgment
The hearing normally occurs 20 days after filing a hearing request. The court will allow both parties to present their cases. So, ensure you carry as much evidence as possible.
In their defense to the unlawful detainer action, tenants may claim any of the following:
- You tried to evict them illegally: As already mentioned, only a court has the power to evict a tenant. If you attempt to evict the tenant on your own, not only will you fail, but you may also face consequences. So, don’t shut off utilities, lock the tenant out, or remove their belongings. Such actions are commonly referred to as “self-help” and are illegal.
- The eviction process was un-procedural: When trying to evict a tenant, you must strictly adhere to all stipulated procedures, such as serving the tenant the right notice. If you fail to do so, the tenant can use that as a defense in court to delay their eviction.
- You failed in your maintenance responsibilities: As a landlord in California, you’re required to maintain your rental unit (Civ. Code § § 1941, 1941.1, and 1941.3). If you fail to do so, the tenant can use that as an affirmative defense to the eviction.
- You discriminated against the tenant: Under the federal and state’s Fair Housing Act, it’s illegal for California landlords to discriminate against a tenant based on the protected characteristics. The characteristics include race, color, religion, familial status, and national origin. Discrimination also includes a retaliatory eviction.
- You tried to evict the tenant after the tenant fixed the violation: In some cases, a tenant is allowed to ‘cure’ the violation they have committed. If they fix their violation, you cannot continue with the eviction process. If you do, the tenant can use that as a defense to the eviction.
Step #4: Writ of Execution
Under California law, if the eviction process works in your favor, you’ll be issued with a Writ of Execution. This is the final notice to a tenant to move out.
Bottom Line: California Eviction Process
If you’re dealing with a problem tenant in your California property, or if the tenant is violating the terms of the lease or rental agreement, you have a right to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. However, when doing so, it’s crucial that you follow the California eviction process.
As an overview, here are the steps to evict tenants from your property:
- A California eviction notice
- Summons & Complaint
- Hearing & Judgement
- Writ of Execution Notice
By doing so, you will successfully and legally follow the eviction process in California and evict your tenant.
For more help with the eviction procedure, contact Realevate Specialists today!
Disclaimer: This blog is only meant to be informational and not a substitute for professional legal advice. For questions or further help with the California eviction process, please get in touch with Realevate Specialist. We are Temecula’s premier rental management firm!
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.