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California Eviction Laws

As a landlord, tenant eviction may be an inevitable process that you’ll have to undertake at some point in your career. The state of California, just like other states, has a pretty detailed eviction process that can be tricky for beginners to navigate.

Regardless of the violations committed by your tenants, you’ll be required to follow these steps to the letter. If you fail to do so, you may find yourself faced with delays, or even battling a lawsuit. It’s especially important for inexperienced landlords to make sure they know how to handle evictions properly.

Here’s a Basic Overview of California’s Eviction Laws

Serving an Eviction Notice

Eviction Notices with a Legal Cause

The eviction process in the state of California must begin with a legal cause. Legal causes include nonpayment of rent, excessive property damage, failure to keep the unit maintained, and other violations to the lease or rental agreement.

Now, for each legal cause, there will be a specific eviction notice that you must serve the tenant with. Below are the 3 common eviction notices used in California.

  • 3-Days Notice for Nonpayment of Rent: You must only serve this notice to a tenant that fails to make their rent payments. The notice gives the tenant two options: to pay the due rent in three days or else to move out.

If the tenant obliges and pays the outstanding rent or moves out, then no further action will be needed on your part. But if they don’t take either option, then you can proceed with further eviction proceedings.

  • 3-Days Notice to Cure: You can serve this to a tenant that violates the terms of the agreement. Examples of violations include keeping an unauthorized pet or subletting the unit without your approval. The notice will give the tenant a maximum of 3 days to ‘cure’ the violation.

If the tenant fixes the violation within the stipulated time, no further action will be required from you. But if they don’t, you can move to court and file for their removal.

  • 3-Days Unconditional Quit Notice: You must only serve this notice for specific violations to the lease. Examples of such violations include excessive property damage, illegal activities, and disturbing the peace of other tenants.

Unlike the previous two notices, this one doesn’t give the tenant an option to rectify the issue. The only option the tenant will have is to move out within 3 days, or else risk being evicted.

Eviction Notices without Legal Cause

Without a legal cause, tenancy terminations will depend on the tenancy type.

To end a month-to-month rental agreement, you’ll only need to serve the tenant with a 30-days’ notice.

The only exception to this is if the tenant has lived in the unit for more than a year. In that case, you’ll need to serve them 60-days notice.

In both cases, you must clearly state in the notice when their tenancy will end.

Filing and Serving the Petition

If a tenant doesn’t follow the options provided on the eviction notice, the next step is to seek the court’s help in removing them. This you may do by filing a complaint in the appropriate court.

Filing a complaint usually costs between $385 and $435.

Once you’ve paid the filing fees, the court’s clerk will provide you a copy of the summons and eviction complaint. You’ll also need to have the tenant served a copy of the same within 60 days.

You can serve the tenant the copy of the summons and complaints through any of the following methods:

  • Serving it to the tenant in person.

  • Leaving a copy with a competent worker or a competent member of the household if the tenant is unavailable. You must also mail it to the tenant via certified mail.

  • Posting a copy in a place that’s conspicuous. For example, on the front door of the rental unit. You must also mail to the tenant via certified mail.

Filing of the Answer

In the state of California, tenants aren’t required to file a formal written answer to an eviction complaint. That said, you’ll be required to wait out the legally required answer period before proceeding with the eviction process.

If the tenant fails to answer, the court will likely issue a judgment in your favor.

If you manage to serve the tenant in person, they will have only 5 business days to respond. For other service types, they will have up to 15 business days to respond.

The Hearing & Judgment

Once you have filed a request for an eviction hearing, the hearing should take place within 20 days. Any party can request for an extension to this period, but that would be solely dependent upon the judicial officer.

During the hearing, both parties will be given sufficient time to present their cases. Make sure to carry as much supporting evidence as possible. Include a copy of the lease, a copy of the eviction notice, and any email correspondences.

A tenant may choose to fight the eviction by alleging any of the following:

  • You’re discriminating against them based on a protected characteristic: The Fair Housing Act makes discrimination based on a protected characteristic illegal. Protected characteristics include race, color, gender, religion, disability, national origin, and familial status.

  • You’re proceeding with the eviction even after they cured the violation: When a violation can be cured, you must stop further proceedings after the tenant rectifies the violation.

  • Your unit wasn’t habitable: As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to ensure your rental unit is habitable.

  • You failed to follow the proper eviction process: For example, you failed to serve the tenant the correct eviction notice.

  • You used self-help means in trying to evict the tenant: Regardless of the violation committed, you cannot force your tenant out of the unit on your own. For instance, you can’t shut off the utilities, or lock windows and doors.

If the hammer falls in your favor, you’ll be issued a Writ of Restitution.

Removing the Tenant

The Writ of Restitution is the tenant’s final notice to move out. It will give them 5 days to move, or else they will be forcibly removed by the sheriff.

It’s important to ensure tenants move out when they’re serviced notice, in order to prevent an unfortunate squatting situation.

The Bottom Line

Are you a property owner in Murrieta, CA looking for help evicting a tenant? If so, Archer Management Group can help.

Besides helping you handle evictions, we can also help you manage your property effectively.


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