Landlord Eviction Process in California: A Comprehensive Guide

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The eviction process in California is stringent. It must follow specific rules and follow certain procedures to be valid. Plus, California eviction laws protect tenants against unlawful evictions.

All landlords in California need to understand the prevailing laws and the process of evicting a tenant. This article covers the California eviction process to help you navigate it successfully.

When Can Landlords Evict Tenants in California?

A landlord can evict a tenant by issuing a written notice to terminate the tenancy for various reasons. However, California eviction laws protect tenants who have lived in a rental unit for 12 months or more.

The California Tenant Protection Act of 2019 is one of the most important rent control ordinances protecting tenants. According to the eviction laws under this act, the landlord needs a ‘just cause’ to evict a tenant for 12 or more months.

Therefore, a landlord can only issue an eviction notice because of the tenant’s actions (or inaction) or the landlord’s own reasons. The reasons should be clearly stated in the eviction notice.

California eviction laws protect tenants with a month-to-month lease or rental agreement and those with longer lease agreements. The exempted tenancy types include those that are ‘separately alienable from title’ or stand alone and are owned by an individual.

Terminating a California Tenancy for Cause

A landlord can evict a tenant for many reasons, such as failure to pay rent, violation of a lease or rental agreement, or engagement in illegal activities. Landlords must issue tenants with an eviction notice. The conditions in an eviction notice depend on the reasons for eviction, which include the following:

1. Rent Non-Payment

If a tenant fails to pay rent after the due date, the landlord may issue a three-day notice to pay or move out. But that does not include instances when the landlord raises rent. The tenant may or may not pay the rent in three days. They may also opt to move out before the end of the notice period.

The landlord may use the security deposit to cover the unpaid rent and sue the tenant for any amount above it. If the tenant doesn't pay rent or moves out within three days, the landlord files an eviction case.

2. Fixable Lease Violations

The lease violations by the tenant could be fixable. Such violations include keeping unauthorized pets on the premises. In that case, the landlord must serve a three-day notice to comply or quit.

The notice asks the tenant to remedy the situation or move out of the house. If the tenant moves out before the end of the notice period, the landlord loses grounds to sue. However, the landlord may sue for provisions of the lease agreement, such as rent owed or damages.

3. Serious Lease Violation

According to California eviction laws, landlords can issue unconditional three-day notices to quit due to serious violations. The tenant should have done something they cannot correct and must leave the rental unit within three days.

If the tenant refuses to quit the rental unit in three days, the landlord must file an eviction lawsuit. California eviction laws allow landlords to file this kind of notice under circumstances such as:

  • repeated intentional damages to the property,
  • involvement in illegal activity on the rental unit,
  • permission of or causing a nuisance inside the rental unit,
  • and lease violations, such as subletting the rental unit contrary to the lease agreement.

Terminating a California Tenancy Without Cause

The California eviction process, where there’s no cause on the tenant’s part, can vary based on the type of tenancy. Here’s a look at what happens in each situation:

1. Month-to-Month Tenancy

Where a month-to-month tenancy has lasted less than 12 months, the landlord must issue a 30-day written notice to evict a tenant. While the landlord doesn’t have to provide a reason for the eviction, they must avoid doing it for discriminatory reasons such as:

  • race or color,
  • religion,
  • nationality,
  • disability or handicap,
  • age
  • family status,
  • and sex.

The prescribed California eviction process requires a landlord to issue a 60-day notice to a tenant who has lived in a house for over one year. Of course, the lease agreement comes to an end after 60 days. Thereafter, legal proceedings commence with the filing of the eviction lawsuit.

2. Fixed-Term Tenancy

If the lease or rental agreement is for more than one year on a fixed-term basis, the landlord can only end the tenancy with cause.

Otherwise, they must wait until the lease agreement runs its course. Unless there’s unpaid rent at the end of the lease and the tenant doesn’t require an extension, the landlord doesn’t need to give notice.

Thus, the tenant can move out of the house freely. Also, a landlord must renew the lease agreement if the tenant has lived in the rental unit for at least one year.

The landlord can only decline that with a just cause. If there’s a reason to decline a lease extension or the house is sold to another entity, the landlord may issue any of the following types of notices:

  • A three-day notice to pay rent or move out
  • A three-day notice to cure a breach or move out
  • A three-day notice to quit if the breach is uncurable

California Eviction Process and Laws

The eviction process in California is straightforward for a landlord with a cause to evict a tenant. Here are the steps in the eviction process:

1. Eviction Notice

The first step in the California eviction is issuing a written notice to the tenant. There are several methods of issuing eviction notices in California. It could be by:

  • hand delivery to the tenant,
  • substituted service: issuance to an adult at work or rental unit for mailing to the tenant,
  • or posting at the rental unit before mailing it to the tenant.

California eviction laws allow the landlord or a representative over 18 years old to deliver eviction notices.

2. Filing an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

If, after the notice, a tenant is asked to pay rent or carry out some remedial measures, and the tenant complies, the landlord has no right to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. That, too, is true if the tenant opts to move out of the rental unit before the notice expires.

However, the landlord must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit when there is proper notice and the tenant fails to remedy the situation or move out. The landlord must file the case in a county superior court. Eviction cases in California must include the following forms:

  • Unlawful Detainer Eviction Summons
  • Unlawful Detainer Complaint
  • A Mandatory Cover Sheet for the Plaintiff
  • A Civil Case Cover Sheet

Before leaving the court, the landlord should check if they need any additional eviction court forms. The unlawful detainer action filing fee is $240 to $450 (each court has its own rates). Landlords may apply for a fee waiver if they cannot afford it.

3. Serving the Tenant with the Unlawful Detainer Paperwork

Once they have filed the suit, landlords must serve their tenants. To serve a tenant in California, the landlord may do it in person or through a third party (anyone over 18 years old). After getting served, the tenant must sign a proof of service form, which the landlord will produce in court.

The tenant must respond in 5 to 15 days, depending on the mode of service used. If the service was in person, the tenant must respond within five days. The tenant may respond within 15 days of the court date under the following circumstances:

  • Where there was substituted service (through someone else at the rental and mailing to the tenant),
  • Where the landlord posted a copy at the rental unit and mailed a copy to the tenant.

4. Trial and Hearing

If the tenant responds to the eviction case, the landlord may ask for a trial date. Both the landlord and the tenant will get the opportunity to present their sides of the story.

The landlord may request a default judgment if the tenant refuses to file countering court papers. In that case, the uncontested court order would be to evict the tenant. If a landlord gets a default judgment, they must serve the tenant with a copy of it.

5. Eviction Judgment

Where there’s reason to believe that a landlord should evict a tenant, the judge would sign a judgment of possession. That’s unless the judge rules in favor of the tenant. In eviction cases involving rent non-payment, the judge may also ask the tenant to pay rent and the costs of the lawsuit.

6. Removal of the Tenant

As a last step in the California eviction process, the landlord must regain possession of the rental property. They need a possession form signed by the judge and a writ of execution directing the sheriff’s office to carry out the eviction.

The sheriff will act on the writ of execution by issuing the tenant a notice to vacate. Of course, the tenant must move out of the house. If they don’t, the sheriff may physically remove the tenant. No tenant’s belongings can remain in the house in that case.

What If a Landlord Doesn’t Follow California Eviction Rules?

Every landlord must follow the prescribed eviction process in California. However, some landlords do not always do so. The following are instances when California landlords could mess up the eviction process:

1. Procedural Errors

Procedural errors, such as failure to give a tenant appropriate notice, may lead to the court dismissing the lawsuit and keeping the tenant in the house. Thus, the landlord may have to start the legal proceedings all over again.

2. Self-Enforced Eviction

California eviction laws do not permit self-help eviction through actions like changing door locks, physically ejecting the tenant, or throwing the tenant’s belongings out. The only legal way to evict a tenant is for a landlord to win an eviction lawsuit. Illegal eviction may attract serious penalties, like:

  • Criminal charges against the landlord
  • A civil lawsuit by the tenant

Why Is Landlord Insurance Necessary?

Landlord insurance is important for anyone renting their property to a residential tenant. It covers damage in case of natural disasters, accidents, etc. The following are the different areas covered by landlord insurance:

1. Property Damage

A landlord gets compensation for damage to property by fire, electric malfunction, or a natural disaster.

2. Rent Default

Your property could be rendered uninhabitable by a rat, termite, or mold infestation. You will get rent reimbursement until you correct the situation.

3. Liability Protection

They will be compensated if a tenant or visitor suffers injury on your rental units due to architectural issues, icy walkways, etc.

The Bottom Line

The landlord-tenant relationship is not always smooth and could sometimes necessitate eviction. When that happens, the landlord must follow all legal requirements, such as issuing a notice and filing a lawsuit. Attempting self-help eviction is not only frustrating but could lead to legal sanctions.

Landlord insurance compensates for damage caused by natural disasters or other perils. is a reliable landlord insurance provider with operations across the United States. We handle all your issues effectively and provide the necessary coverage.

Contact us now for a quote.

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