If a landlord is thinking about evicting a tenant in California the first thing you will need is a reason that complies with California law. Some reasons to evict a tenant in California include (but are not limited to) failure to pay rent, damage to the property, or a violation of the lease or rental agreement.
If the tenant doesn’t voluntarily vacate the property after the landlord has given the tenant the proper notice required, the landlord can evict the tenant.
The California eviction process assures the tenant of the right to a court hearing if the tenant believes that the landlord has no right to evict the tenant. The landlord must use this court process to evict the tenant. A landlord is not allowed to use “self-help measures” to evict a tenant. Which means the landlord cannot physically lock the tenant out of the property, shut off the utilities such as water or electricity, or take the tenant’s possessions in order to carry out the eviction. If you do use prohibited methods to evict the tenant, they can sue you for damages and you can be penalized up to $100 per day that you used those methods.
In order to evict the tenant, the landlord must file an “Unlawful Detainer” lawsuit in Superior Court. An “Unlawful Detainer” lawsuit is what California calls an eviction. In an eviction lawsuit, the landlord is called the “plaintiff” and the tenant is the “defendant.”
In California the Unlawful Detainer lawsuit is a summary court process. This means that the court action moves forward much more quickly than other civil court actions. For example the named defendants only have five days to file an answer with the court in response to the lawsuit after being served with a copy of the summons and complaint. Normally, the court will set a hearing date within about 20 days after the tenant or the landlord files a request to set the case for trial.
In the California evictions process, the court holds a hearing at which the parties can present their evidence and explain their case.
If the court decides in favor of the landlord, the court also may award a judgment to the landlord for any unpaid rents, damages, court costs, and attorney’s fees (if the rental agreement or lease contains an attorney’s fee clause) and the court will issue a writ of possession. The writ of possession orders the sheriff to remove the tenant from the property; however, it does give the tenant five days from the date that the writ is served on the tenant by the sheriff posting the property to leave voluntarily. If the tenant does not leave by the end of the fifth day, the writ of possession authorizes the sheriff to physically remove the tenants and lock them out of the property. A landlord cannot take possession and change the locks on the property until after the sheriff has removed the tenant. The judgment against the tenant is good for 10 years and can be renewed, it will be reported on the tenant’s credit report and unpaid judgment amounts accrue interest at the legal rate of 10% per year.
If the court finds that the tenant has a good defense and decides in favor of the tenant, the tenant will not have to move, and the landlord may be ordered to pay the tenants court costs and the landlord also may have to pay the tenant’s attorney’s fees (if the rental agreement or lease contains an attorney’s fee clause).