Just like tenants, California law, (CA Civil Code 1940-1954.05
) gives landlords a bevy of rights., including those protected under the legal California eviction process. Key among them is the right to evict a tenant for lease violations. You never want to evict a tenant, but sometimes it's necessary. The following guidelines describe the eviction process 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 you seek legal counsel to help you navigate this process until all Covid tenant protections are lifted.
When evicting a tenant for lease violations, you must follow the proper steps in the process for it to be successful, and you can't evict tenants without reasonable cause, like a breach of any lease agreements signed. We recommend that California landlords and property managers always consult an eviction attorney for guidance and proper representation throughout the California eviction process.
Some of the things an eviction attorney will take into consideration 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?
- 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 your attorney determines an eviction can move forward, here is what you 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 eviction process begins with a California eviction notice. You must give the tenant notice of eviction. A written notice of eviction must meet three criteria for it to be effective.
A) It must be relevant to the violation committed
Different eviction notices serve different purposes during the eviction process. A “Notice to Pay or Quit”, for example, should only be served to tenants who fail to pay rent. If you serve it for a different violation, the eviction will most likely be dismissed in court and you 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 pay 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 eviction procedure is over, often the court decides to forcibly remove them from the promises. The eviction cannot be classified as a retaliatory eviction 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 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.
Filing an Unlawful Detainer lawsuit is something we highly recommend you do 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 gives the tenant an opportunity to respond to the eviction. If they choose to answer, they will have 5 business days to do so. Afterwards, an eviction lawsuit can be filed. If the tenant responds in order to refute the claims made against them, the court will tell you how to proceed.
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 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, a default judgment will be announced in your favor.
Step #4: Writ of Execution
If the landlord files for eviction and the eviction process works in your 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 own 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 eviction 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 advice from a licensed attorney in your state. If you have any questions regarding this content or any aspect of property management, Mike Dunfee Group can help.