How to Respond to Eviction Cases
If you are a tenant in California who has been served with an unlawful detainer complaint, you should get legal assistance immediately. Express Evictions can provide you with low-cost quality assistance at a fraction of the cost of lawyers.
You usually have only five days to respond in writing to the landlord’s complaint. You must respond during this time by filing the correct legal document with the Clerk of the court in which the lawsuit was filed. If the fifth day falls on a weekend or holiday, you can file your written response on the following Monday or nonholiday. Typically, a tenant responds to a landlord’s complaint by filing a written “answer.”
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Evicted Tenants May have a Legal Defense to the Landlord’s Complaint
If so, you must state the defense in a written answer and file your written answer with the Clerk of Court by the end of the fifth day. Otherwise, you will lose any defenses that you may have. Some typical defenses that a tenant might have are listed here as examples:
- The landlord’s three-day notice requested more rent than was actually due.
- The rental unit violated the implied warranty of habitability.
- The landlord filed the eviction action in retaliation for the tenant exercising a tenant right or because the tenant complained to the building inspector about the condition of the rental unit.
Depending on the facts of your case, there are other legal responses to the landlord’s complaint that you might file instead of an answer. For example, if you believe that your landlord did not properly serve the summons and the complaint, we would file a Motion to Quash Service of Summons. If you believe that the complaint has some technical defect or does not properly allege the landlord’s right to evict you, we would file a Demurrer. It is important that you do not try to prepare these documents on your own as you will need the assistance of a qualified professional.
If you don’t file a written response to the landlord’s complaint by the end of the fifth day, the court will enter a default judgment in favor of the landlord. A default judgment allows the landlord to obtain a writ of possession and may also award the landlord unpaid rent, damages and court costs.
The Clerk of Court will ask you to pay a filing fee when you file your written response. However, if you can’t afford to pay the filing fee, you can request that the Clerk allow you to file your response without paying the fee (that is, you can request a waiver of the fee).
After you have filed your written answer to the landlord’s complaint, the Clerk of Court will mail to both you and the landlord a notice of the time and place of the trial. If you don’t appear in court, a default judgment will be entered against you.