Evicting a Tenant in California


There are definitely advantages to being a landlord, such as passive rent income. However, what is a landlord to do when for example, a tenant stays after the lease is up, the lease is canceled, or the tenant hasn’t paid their rent? Evicting a tenant under California law is a time-consuming process with multiple steps.  

California Eviction Law

California calls eviction lawsuits Unlawful Detainer Actions, which is a special court proceeding. It is a lawsuit in which a landlord tries to evict a tenant because according to the landlord, the tenant no longer has the right to live on the property. Ultimately, an Unlawful Detainer action decides if the landlord can take the property back from the tenant.

When You Can File Unlawful Detainer Complaint

Before filing an Unlawful Detainer complaint, proper notification to the tenant is required. Once you serve the tenant with an appropriate notice, you must wait for the notice to end before you do anything else. Depending on the type of notice, you will have to give the tenant a certain amount of time to remedy the grounds for eviction.  

If the notice given to the tenant expires and/or tenant has ignored your request, you may then file an Unlawful Detainer complaint with the court. Once you have filed your case with the court, each tenant/defendant must be served with a copy of the complaint and summons. Service may be performed by a registered process server or any person over the age of 18 years who is not a party to the action.

Process For Unlawful Detainer Complaint

In San Diego, if the tenant/defendant files an Answer to your complaint, you must file a “Request/Counter Request to Set Case for Trial – Unlawful Detainer” to have the court set your case for trial. All parties will be notified by mail of the trial date and time.  

The party that prevails at the trial must prepare the judgment form.  

If the tenant/defendant does file an Answer to the complaint after being served, you may request a default judgment for possession against them. A default judgment is a binding judgment in favor of either party based on some failure to take action by the other party.  

If and when the judgment is entered, a writ of execution can then be issued. This issued writ will need to be delivered to the Sherriff’s Office, along with the Sheriff’s instruction sheet detailing the premises and tenant/defendant. A landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without the Writ of Possession from the court and without having a sheriff present during the eviction.  

Evicting a tenant under California laws is a complicated process. If you have questions about your real property, tenant, or unlawful detainer action, please call Slate Law to set up a consultation today to determine your legal options.

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