Like tenants, California law, (CA Civil Code 1940-1954.05
) gives landlords a bevy of rights., including those protected under the legal eviction process in California. Fundamental among them is the right to legally evict a tenant for lease violations. A landlord never wants to evict a tenant, but sometimes filing for one is necessary. The following guidelines describe the legal process of evicting a tenant in California under non-Covid circumstances.
Since the Covid epidemic, the state of California, and many local jurisdictions have enacted tenant protections that supersede normal eviction proceedings. These Covid-related tenant protections are everchanging and we highly recommend landlords seek legal counsel to help them navigate this process until all Covid tenant protections are lifted.
When evicting a tenant for lease violations, a landlord must follow the proper steps in the process for it to be successful. They can't evict tenants without reasonable cause, like a breach of any lease agreements signed. We recommend that California landlords and property managers consult a legal expert for guidance and proper representation throughout the California eviction process.
Some of the things an evictions attorney will take into consideration when a landlord is looking to evict a tenant include:
- The city in which the rental unit is located
- What type of property do the tenants live in? (E.g., SFR, Condo, or Apartment)
- What is the specific lease violation made by the tenant? (E.g., Property damage or Non-payment of rent)
- Is the property subject to rent control?
- What is the ‘just cause’ reason for the notice to vacate?
- Is there a current local ordinance in place that supersedes the county or state legislation?
If the attorney determines it can move forward, here is what a landlord can expect to take place under general proceedings. Please note, however, that it is by no means a substitute for an attorney nor is it an attempt to give legal advice:
Step #1: Post/Deliver Proper Notice
The first step in any tenant process begins with a California eviction notice. Landlords must give the tenant notice of eviction. A written notice must meet three criteria for it to be effective.
A) It must be relevant to the violation committed
Different eviction notices serve different purposes. A “Notice to Pay or Quit”, for example, should only be served to tenants who fail to pay rent. If a landlord serves the notice for a different lease violation, the eviction process will most likely be dismissed in court and they will have to begin again by serving the notice.
B) It must inform the tenant of the specific violation(s) committed
As well, it must provide them with a timeline. For example, the 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit gives the tenant 3 days to either cover the unpaid rent or move out. After the initial notice period, eviction laws state that if the tenant fails to either pay or move out, an eviction lawsuit can be filed against them.
If a tenant refuses to move out after the California eviction process is over, often the court decides to forcibly remove them from the promises. The eviction cannot be classified as retaliatory or else it is classified as discrimination.
C) It must contain correctly listed information such as:
- Tenant(s) name(s)
- The property address for which rent is paid
- Date when you, the landlord, made the rent demand to the tenant(s)
- Landlord name, address, and contact information where rent is payable
- The amount of overdue rent
- A certificate of service indicating how the notice was served to the tenant
- Your signature
Step #2: File and Serve the Complaint
Once the notice period ends and if the tenant has not moved out, the next step is to file and serve a complaint with the Superior Court of the applicable county in California. The complaint and summons is also referred to as an Unlawful Detainer.
We highly recommend you file an Unlawful Detainer lawsuit through your
Now, there is a certain way in which the summons and complaint and the Unlawful Detainer must be served. We recommend going through a professional service provider. The service must be done in any of the following ways:
- Through personal delivery
- Leaving a copy at the tenant’s workplace or mailing it to them via first-class mail
- Posting it in a conspicuous place on the rental unit
The summons and complaint give the tenant an opportunity to respond to the eviction. If the tenant chooses to answer, they will have 5 business days to do so. Afterward, an eviction lawsuit can be filed. If the tenant responds in order to refute the claims made against them, the court will tell the landlord how to proceed. Note that court costs may vary.
Step #3: Court Hearing & Judgment
The eviction hearing will be set by the court. Once a trial date is set and any filing fee is processed, it'll be time for court and the legal process to truly begin. You, as the landlord, should attend the hearing prepared with the following:
- A copy of the lease agreement
- A copy of the notice of eviction
- The complaint
- Any supporting evidence/documentation
If the tenant fails to show up for the eviction hearing, it's likely the judge rules a default judgment in favor of the landlord.
Step #4: Writ of Execution
If the landlord files for eviction and the process works in their favor, this is the tenant’s final notice to move out of the rental premises and states a date determined by the court. If the tenant has not vacated by the court-appointed date, Sheriff’s deputies will appear at the rental unit and forcefully remove them, thereby carrying out the eviction.
This is commonly referred to as “the lockout date” because the Landlord can have the locks changed at this time.
If you're the landlord of a rental property in California, it’s challenging but very important to be up to date on local landlord-tenant laws. Tenants who do not live up to their end of the lease agreement (including refusing to pay rent, partaking in illegal activity, etc) are subject to eviction.
Understanding the California eviction process with proper representation from an attorney is key. More importantly, however, is proper tenant screening to greatly reduce your chances of having a bad experience in the first place.
As a landlord, it’s also important that you understand the state's landlord-tenant laws, security deposit laws, and regulations relating to breaking a rental agreement. The Mike Dunfee Group can help you with all of this.
So consider contacting us for your property management needs. You don’t need to manage your rental unit on your own. We can help you realize your investment property’s full potential.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for legal help and advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Consider speaking with a professional who provides legal services. If you have any questions regarding this content or any aspect of rental management, Mike Dunfee Group can help.