In the landlords interest, a landlord may evict a tenant who has not been paying rent or has been damaging the premises by filing an terminating the lease and filing an unlawful detainer suit with the court.
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:
- Failure to pay rent
- Violating the lease
- Staying beyond the agreed upon rental term
- Causing a nuisance
- Damaging the property
- Performing illegal activities inside the unit
- Using the unit for an impermissible manner such as operating a business in a residential zone
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:
- Someone physically handing the notice to the tenant.
- Leave a copy with an adult at the unit or with someone at the tenant’s workplace, and then mail a copy to the tenant.
- Post a copy on the tenant’s door, and then mail a copy to the tenant.
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.
After a unlawful detainer suit has begun and the eviction process has commenced, the complaint must be served to the tenant. Tenants often try to avoid service in an attempt to avoid eviction. If this situation arises, a notice of eviction may be posted on tenant’s residence and another notice may be sent to the tenant’s address on file. This types pf notice can only be done after several unsuccessful attempts to serve the tenant and permission is granted by the court.
The amount of time for a eviction process varies depending on when the complaint was filed and when the tenant was properly served with eviction notice.
Eviction in California can be a complex and long process. Often, a landlord must go through the court process to remove a tenant. A California real estate lawyer can help you navigate the court system, and save you time and money by quickly evicting your tenant.