Evicting a Residential Tenant in California

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Evicting a Residential Tenant in California

Evicting a tenant in California is a complicated process due to the strict tenant laws. Landlords are not allowed to use "self-help eviction" (i.e. to use force to lockout the tenant), but must go through the court system. The eviction process is summarized in 7 steps below.

1. Valid Reason to Evict Your Tenant

In California, landlords must have a just cause to remove a tenant from his premises. Some valid reasons include:

2. Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

The landlord should then serve the tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. Essentially, it tells the tenant to stop doing what he is not supposed to do within 3 days or to move out. The notice may be served in three ways:

3. Wait for Tenant to Remedy the Situation

Wait three days after the notice is served to see if the tenant fixed the problem (i.e. wait for the tenant to pay rent or wait for the tenant to stop selling drugs in his unit).

4. File an Unlawful Detainer Action

If the tenant does nothing, the landlord must go to court and file an unlawful detainer action. An unlawful detainer action is a formal complaint through the court system for the Sheriff to come onto the premises to remove the tenant.

5. Serve the Tenant

Give notice of the unlawful detainer action the same way as you did with the 3-Days Notice in Step 2.

6. Complete the Court Process

Give the tenant 5-days to respond to the Unlawful Detainer. If the tenant does not respond or object to the eviction, then ask the court for a default judgment. Afterwards, the judge will give you a Writ of Possession, in which you will take to the Sheriff’s office to have him evict your tenant.

If the tenant does object to the eviction, a court hearing will occur within 21 days. If the landlord wins, then the tenant has 5 days to leave. If the tenant wins, then the tenant gets to stay and the landlord may have to pay the tenant’s court fees.

7. Store the Tenant’s Belongings

If the tenant leaves behind some of his belongings after he leaves the unit (whether the Sheriff removes him or he leaves himself), the landlord must store his belongings for 2 weeks and attempt to give them back. If 2 weeks has gone by and nothing happens, then the landlord may do as she wishes with the items.

Consulting a Lawyer

Eviction in California can be a complex and long process. Often, a landlord must go through the court process to remove a tenant. A real estate lawyer can help you navigate the court system, and save you time and money by quickly evicting your tenant.

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Last Modified: 01-08-2014 11:49 AM PST

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