If you’re thinking about evicting a tenant in California, you’ll first need a reason that complies with the law. The most common reasons to evict a tenant include failure to pay rent, damage to the property, or a violation of the lease or rental agreement.
In California, you may also evict a tenant if the tenant stays after the lease is up and refuses to leave voluntarily or the landlord terminates the rental agreement for a valid reason and the tenant refuses to leave on his or her own after being given the proper notice.
If you want to start the process of evicting a tenant in California you need to serve your tenant with the proper notice. Depending on your situation, this notice may or may not have to include the reason or reasons for eviction: For example, if the tenant is failing to pay rent—the notice will have to state the rent due, the property address, and provide information on the location to pay rent and state the available times and days for the tenant has to pay rent in order to avoid eviction. If your tenant pays the full amount stated on the notice within the three days you no longer have cause for eviction. If your tenant does not remedy the problem within the time provided, you may file an “Unlawful Detainer” lawsuit.
If the notice does not need to have a reason or reasons for the eviction—such as a 30-day or 60-day notice to move out of a month-to-month tenancy—you may file a lawsuit as soon as the notice period ends if the tenant fails to vacate. Whether you have to include a reason for eviction can also depend upon whether your city or county has special rules like rent control ordinances.
What’s an “Unlawful Detainer” Lawsuit?
An “unlawful detainer” lawsuit is what California calls an eviction lawsuit.
Once you file expect the process should to take about two months. During this time, you as the landlord may not be able to accept rent, but the tenant will ultimately be liable for it. The tenant has about five days to respond after being served with your complaint.
If the tenant files an answer with the court and the case becomes contested and a trial request is sent to the court. The court will then schedule a trial within 20 days or so of your request being received. The Unlawful Detainer trial usually takes less than an hour.
If you win, the tenant will generally be given five days to vacate after the sheriff posts the lock-out order. The lock-out order allows the sheriff to physically lock the tenant out of the rental property.
When to Talk to a Lawyer?
Evicting a tenant in California can be complicated and it’s never a bad idea to speak with a real estate attorney. You should especially consider doing this if:
The tenant works for you and lives on the property: If you’re employing the tenant and, as a condition of this employment, the tenant does not pay rent, you can usually file a lawsuit once the tenant no longer works for you. (The tenant can either be fired or can quit.)
The tenant lives in a residential hotel: If the tenant lives in a hotel with more than six rooms for more than 30 days and the hotel is the tenant’s primary residence, they will usually be granted the rights of a regular tenant.
The tenant lives in a mobile home or RV park: This varies significantly between counties and it’s highly recommended to contact a real estate attorney.
There is a foreclosure: there are many potential scenarios in this case, and contacting a lawyer is a good idea.
As you can see, evicting a tenant in California can be complicated.