A Comprehensive Guide to the Eviction Process in California

To evict a tenant in the state of California, the statewide landlord-tenant law requires that landlords end the tenancy. That said, there is a process that must be followed in order to make the eviction successful.

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, having an understanding of these laws is important. As a tenant, you’ll know what to expect and what to do in case the eviction isn’t procedural. On the other hand, as a landlord, understanding these laws will help you avoid mistakes that could derail the eviction.

Eviction Notices with a Legal Cause  

There are many reasons you may wish to evict a tenant. Maybe they’ve committed an illegal act, seriously violated the lease or rental agreement, or failed to keep up with rent payments.

The first step in evicting a tenant starts with the serving of an eviction notice that states the reason for the eviction.

The following are the 3 eviction notices used in the state of California.

3-Day Notice for Rent Payment

If your tenant didn’t pay the rent, this is the notice you must serve. This notice gives the tenant two options: either to pay the rent in 3 days or to move out of the property.

If the tenant pays the rent due in 3 days, then there is no further action needed. However, if they don’t, then you have the option to seek the court’s help in removing them.

3-Day Notice to Correct/Cure:

This one is for lease violations, such as keeping a pet when there is a “no pet” policy or altering the unit when the lease is against it. This notice warns the tenant that they have three days to fix the lease violation.

If they adhere, then no further action is needed. But if they don’t, then you have the option to file for their formal eviction in court.

3-Day Unconditional Notice to Quit:

This is for specific violations to the lease or rental agreement. Specific situations that can warrant this include: subletting the unit without your permission, causing substantial property damage, creating nuisance at the premises, and getting involved in illegal activities.  

This notice tells the tenant that they must move out within 3 days of being served the notice. Unlike the previous two notices, the tenant has no option to fix the violation. If the tenant doesn’t move out, then you can move to court and file for their eviction.

termination of lease vs eviction

Eviction Notices Without a Legal Cause

The rules for ending a lease or a rental agreement depend on whether the tenancy period is month-to-month or fixed-term.

To end a fixed-term tenancy without any cause, you’ll need to wait until the lease comes to an end. And you won’t need to notify your tenant that you won’t be renewing their lease unless the lease requires it.

For a month-to-month tenancy, and given that the tenant has lived there for less than a year, then you must serve them with a 30-days’ notice to end their lease. But for month-to-month tenants that have lived for over a year, you’ll need to give them a 60-days’ notice to terminate their lease.

Whether serving a 30-days- or a 60-days’ notice, you must clearly indicate when the tenancy ends and that the they must move out by that time.

Tenant Eviction Defenses in the State of California

In some cases, a tenant may choose to fight the eviction by presenting a defense. The following are the common eviction defenses in California.

  • You discriminated against them. The Fair Housing Act makes discriminating against tenants based on protected classes illegal. The classes are: disability, familial status, national origin, gender, religion, and race. In addition, California also includes medical condition, marital status, sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity to the list of protected classes.
  • You still chose to proceed with the eviction even after the tenant corrected the violation. In cases where tenants have options to cure the violation, you must stop any further action if they correct the violation within the time stipulated.
  • You failed to maintain the unit. As a landlord, one of your primary responsibility is ensuring that the property is safe and habitable. For example, ensuring that the locks are functional, and the roofs, walls, and windows are waterproofed and weather protected. If you don’t, the tenant has a legal right to withhold rent.
  • You didn’t follow the law in evicting the tenant. When trying to evict a tenant, you must follow the right procedure. For instance, by serving them the right eviction notice. If you don’t, your tenant can use it as a defense against you.
  • You evicted them through “self-help” means. Self-help evictions are illegal in California, just like they are everywhere in the country. Examples of self-help eviction acts include changing locks on windows or doors, and shutting off the utilities.
eviction court

Evicting a Tenant

Even after a successful ruling in court, the only person mandated by law to carry out the eviction is the sheriff. You cannot by no means remove the tenant from the property personally.

In some cases, a tenant may leave some of the stuff behind after they have been evicted. In such cases, you must first try to notify them of the abandoned property and give them at least fifteen days to collect it. However, if you notified the tenant via mail, then the law requires you give them at least 18 days.

If they don’t reclaim their property within the notice period, then you are free to dispose it off as you like.

When every other option has been exhausted, a landlord may be left with no other option but to evict a tenant. An eviction, however, can be a long, costly and laborious process. This is especially true if you don’t properly understand the process.

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Eagle Property Management has the skills, experience, knowledge, and resources to help you in this regard. We’ll work to ensure the process is sorted out quickly and the outcome is favorable to you. Contact us today for more information.

Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney. Laws change frequently, and the information herein may not be updated at the time of your reading. If you have questions or need further clarifications, please do get in touch with us for help.

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