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California Eviction Process
for Non Payment of Rent

Understanding the California Eviction Process for Non Payment of Rent: What Tenants Need to Know

Tenant Rights and Eviction Rules in California Eviction Process for Non Payment of Rent. The eviction process in California can be complex and stressful for tenants, especially when facing the possibility of being evicted for not paying rent.
This comprehensive guide explains the key steps in the California eviction process for non-payment of rent, outlines tenant rights and options, and provides helpful tips for navigating this challenging situation. Understanding the eviction process is essential for tenants to protect their rights and make informed decisions.

California Eviction Process for Non Payment of Rent

California Eviction Process for Non Payment of Rent: A Step-by-Step Guide

In California, the eviction process for tenants who are late on rent includes the following steps:
1. Serve a notice
The landlord must give the tenant a written notice. The length of the notice period depends on the reason for eviction:

  • 3-day notice to pay rent or quit
  • 30-day notice for no cause evictions
  • 60-day notice for terminating a month-to-month tenancy
  1. File a court case
    If the tenant doesn’t do what the notice asks by the deadline, the landlord can file forms in court to start an eviction case.
  2. Request a trial date or default judgment
    If the tenant files a court form, the landlord can ask for a trial date. If they don’t, the landlord can ask the judge to decide without a trial.
  3. The court makes a decision
    The court will then order the Sheriff or Marshal to carry out the eviction.
    The eviction process can take 30–45 days or longer.
    Tenants should find legal help as soon as possible.

The eviction process in California can be complex and stressful for tenants, especially when facing the possibility of being evicted for not paying rent.
This comprehensive guide explains the key steps in the California eviction process for non-payment of rent, outlines tenant rights and options, and provides helpful tips for navigating this challenging situation.
Understanding the eviction process is essential for tenants to protect their rights and make informed decisions.

 

Eviction in California: An Overview

  • The eviction process in California typically begins when a tenant fails to pay rent and the landlord serves them a 3-day notice to pay or quit.
  • If the tenant does not pay the overdue rent or move out within the 3-day period, the landlord can then file an unlawful detainer lawsuit to evict the tenant.
  • From the initial notice to the sheriff physically removing the tenant, the entire eviction process can take a few weeks to a few months.

What is the first step in the eviction process in California?

The first step is for the landlord to serve the tenant with a written 3-day notice to pay rent or quit. This notice must inform the tenant of the amount of rent owed and give them 3 days to either pay it in full or move out of the rental property. You have three options for serving the notice: personally, by substituted service to another adult on the property, or by posting and mailing.

How long does the eviction process take in California?

The timeline varies case by case, but in general, if the tenant does not pay or moves out after the 3-day notice period, the landlord can file the eviction lawsuit about 3-5 days later. The tenant then has 5 days to respond after being served the summons and complaint. If the case goes to trial, that usually occurs within 20 days. If the landlord prevails, the sheriff can post a 5-day notice to vacate. So the process commonly takes 5-8 weeks total but can be shorter or longer.

California Eviction Process for Non Payment of Rent

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3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

  • If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, the first step the landlord must take is to serve the tenant with a written 3-day notice to pay rent or quit.
  • This notice must state the full amount of rent owed and give the tenant the option to pay it within 3 days to avoid eviction. It cannot demand late fees or other non-rent charges.
  • The notice also gives the tenant the alternative choice to move out within 3 days if they cannot pay.
  • If the tenant pays all the overdue rent within 3 days, the landlord must accept it and cannot proceed with the eviction.

What information must be included in a 3-day notice to pay or quit?

The 3-day notice served on the tenant must include:

  1. The full name and address of the tenant
  2. The total amount of rent overdue
  3. Instructions that the stated rent amount must be paid within 3 days or the tenant must move out
  4. The name, address and phone number of the person the rent must be paid to
  5. The accepted methods of payment (e.g. cash, check, electronic transfer)

How can a landlord legally serve a 3-day notice to a tenant?

There are 3 legally allowed methods for a landlord to serve a 3-day notice to pay or quit on a tenant:

  1. Personal service: Handing the notice directly to the tenant
  2. Substituted service: leaving the notice with a person of suitable age and discretion at the rental property AND mailing a copy
  3. Post and mail: attaching the notice to the rental property’s door AND mailing a copy The landlord should have a witness to the service if possible. If the notice is posted, it extends the notice period to 5 days total.

Summons and Complaint

  • If the tenant does not pay the rent owed or moves out by the end of the 3-day notice period, the landlord’s next step is to file an unlawful detainer complaint and have the tenant served with a copy of the complaint and a court summons.
  • These legal documents formally notify the tenant of the eviction lawsuit against them and the requirement to file a written response with the court, usually within 5 days.
  • If the tenant does not file a timely response, the landlord can seek a default judgment from the court, allowing the eviction to proceed.

What is an unlawful detainer complaint?

An unlawful detainer is the legal term for an eviction lawsuit in California. The unlawful detainer complaint is the document the landlord files with the court to initiate this lawsuit against the tenant. It identifies the parties and rental property involved, states the grounds for the eviction (nonpayment of rent), lists the rent amount owed, and asks the court to issue a judgment returning possession of the property to the landlord.

What happens if a tenant doesn’t respond to an eviction lawsuit?

If a tenant is served an unlawful detainer summons and complaint but does not file a written answer with the court by the deadline specified (usually 5 days), the landlord can ask the court to enter a default judgment against the tenant. If granted, this means the tenant automatically loses the case and the eviction moves forward, without the tenant having an opportunity to present any defenses.

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Tenant’s Options When Served an Eviction Lawsuit

  • When served a copy of the landlord’s unlawful detainer complaint, the tenant generally must file a written response with the court within 5 days.
  • In this answer, the tenant responds to the allegations in the complaint and can assert any defenses they have against the eviction. Some common defenses include the landlord not making needed repairs, the eviction being retaliatory, or the 3-day notice having errors.
  • Instead of filing an answer, the tenant can also choose to move out, try to make a settlement with the landlord, or file for bankruptcy, which temporarily stays evictions.
  • If the tenant does nothing, the landlord will seek a default judgment, allowing the eviction to proceed.

Should you move out when served with an eviction lawsuit?

It depends on the individual tenant’s circumstances. If the tenant owes the rent and realistically cannot pay it, moving out might make sense to avoid the stress and negative credit consequences of an eviction judgment. However, if the tenant has valid defenses to the eviction, it may be better to stay and fight it in court. Consulting with a tenant’s rights lawyer can help evaluate the options.

California Eviction Process for Non Payment of Rent

Eviction Trial

  • If the tenant files an answer to the unlawful detainer complaint, the court will schedule an eviction trial, typically within 20 days.
  • At trial, the landlord has the burden to prove the tenant did not pay rent and the 3-day notice was properly served. The tenant can present their defenses and evidence.
  • If the landlord wins at trial, the court issues a judgment for possession of the property and a writ of possession for the sheriff to carry out the eviction.
  • If the tenant prevails, they get to stay in the rental, though the landlord may still be able to correct errors and refile the case.

What happens at an unlawful detainer trial?

Unlawful detainer trials move quickly compared to other civil cases. Each side makes an opening statement, previewing their case. The landlord puts on their evidence and witnesses first, and then the tenant presents their defense. The judge or jury makes a decision, usually that same day. If the landlord proves their case, the court issues a judgment and writ allowing the eviction. If the tenant wins, the case is dismissed.

How long does the eviction process take if it goes to trial?

Assuming the landlord filed the unlawful detainer complaint about a week after the tenant failed to comply with the 3-day notice, if a trial is required, the case will take about a month from start to finish. A trial is typically set 20 days after the complaint is filed. Then, if the landlord wins, the sheriff will post a 5-day notice to vacate. So the total time is around 28–35 days.

Judgment and Writ of Possession

  • If the landlord prevails at the unlawful detainer trial, the court will issue a judgment for possession, determining that the landlord is entitled to regain possession of the rental property.
  • Along with the judgment, the court issues a writ of possession. This legal document directs the sheriff to physically remove the tenant from the property if they do not leave voluntarily.
  • The landlord cannot personally evict the tenant without this writ but must have the sheriff carry out the physical eviction.

What is a writ of possession?

A writ of possession is a legal document the court issues at the end of an eviction case that allows the actual physical eviction of the tenant to be carried out. The landlord cannot evict the tenant themselves but must give this writ to the local sheriff’s department. The sheriff then serves it on the tenant with a 5-day notice to vacate and returns to forcibly remove the tenant if they have not moved out by the end of the 5-day notice.

Sheriff Lockout

  • Once the landlord has a judgment and writ of possession, the final step is having the county sheriff physically evict the tenant in what is known as a “sheriff lockout.”
  • The sheriff will first post a 5-day notice to vacate the rental property, giving the tenant a final chance to move out on their own.
  • If the tenant does not leave by the end of the 5 days, the sheriff will return, physically remove the tenant if needed, and stand by while the landlord changes the locks.
  • At this point, the rental unit is returned to the landlord’s possession and control. The eviction process is complete.

The California eviction process for non-payment of rent is a multi-step legal procedure that tenants should understand in order to protect their rights. While challenging to face, knowing what to expect at each phase can help tenants better navigate the process and explore their options. Consulting with a knowledgeable tenant’s rights attorney is advisable for personalized guidance.

The Eviction Process in California: What Tenants Need to Know

Understanding the Steps of an Eviction

If you’re a tenant in California facing eviction for not paying rent, it’s crucial to understand the step-by-step process so you can protect your rights. The eviction process starts with the landlord giving you a 3-day notice to “pay rent or quit.” This notice must state the full amount of rent owed and give you the option to pay within 3 days to avoid eviction. If you don’t pay or move out, the landlord can then file an “unlawful detainer” lawsuit against you. You’ll be served a copy of the complaint and a 5-day summons to file a written response in court.

Some key points about the eviction notice and summons are:

  • The 3-day notice can only demand unpaid rent, not late fees or other charges
  • The notice must be served on you properly, either in person, to another adult at your home and mailed, or posted on your door and mailed
  • You have 5 court days from receiving the summons to file a response, or the landlord can get a default judgment against you

 

California Eviction Process for Non Payment of Rent

Navigating the Eviction Court Case

Going to court to fight an eviction lawsuit may seem intimidating, but knowing what to expect can make it less stressful. If you file a written response to the complaint, the court will set up an eviction trial, usually within 20 days. At trial, the landlord has to prove you didn’t pay rent and the 3-day notice was properly served. You get to present your side and any defenses to the eviction.
Common defenses include the landlord not making necessary repairs, the eviction being retaliatory, or receiving an invalid notice.
The judge or jury then decides the case, usually that same day. If you win, the case is dismissed, and you get to stay in your rental. If the landlord wins, the court will issue a judgment and a “writ of possession” for the sheriff to evict you.

Special Circumstances in Evictions

While most evictions follow the typical process, special rules may apply in certain situations that can extend your timelines or give you added protections:

  • Evictions during COVID-19: Many cities and counties passed laws during the pandemic prohibiting eviction for nonpayment of rent in some cases. These rules are complex and still evolving.
  • Rent control evictions: If your building is subject to rent control, your landlord can only evict you for specific “just causes” and in some circumstances, they must pay relocation benefits.
  • Section 8 and subsidized housing evictions: If you live in government subsidized low-income housing or receive Section 8 rent assistance, you have additional rights and defenses that can prevent or delay eviction.

Tenant Eviction Protection Laws

Over the past few years, California has passed several laws to protect tenants from unfair evictions. Here are some of the key legal safeguards in place:

  • Rent caps and just cause eviction: The Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (AB 1482) limits annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation and requires landlords to have a valid reason for eviction in many properties.
  • COVID-19 eviction moratorium: Various state and local laws protected tenants from eviction for unpaid rent during the height of the pandemic if they were financially impacted.
  • Anti-harassment and discrimination laws: It’s illegal for landlords to evict tenants based on race, disability, gender, or other protected characteristics, or in retaliation for asserting legal rights.

Tenant Rights and Options When Facing Eviction

Responding to an Eviction Notice

Dealing with the shock of receiving an eviction notice is never easy, but don’t panic. You have rights and options. When you get a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit, carefully read it to see if it follows the strict legal rules. A valid notice must:

  • Clearly state the full amount of rent owed
  • Give you the full 3 days to pay, not counting weekends and court holidays
  • List the name, address and phone number of the person to pay
  • Be served on you properly – look for errors in the way it was given to you

If the notice is defective, you may be able to challenge the eviction in court on this basis. If you can, pay the rent you owe within 3 days to stop the eviction. If you can’t, start looking into rent assistance programs or new housing options. If your landlord refuses to make needed repairs, you could also try to use a “repair and deduct” defense.

Alternatives to an Eviction Trial

While you have the right to fight the eviction in court, sometimes other solutions are better for your finances and credit. Consider these alternatives before your trial date:

  • Negotiate a payment plan: If you just need a little more time to pay the rent, try talking to your landlord. They may agree to a payment plan or to waive rent for a bit rather than going through an eviction.
  • Apply for rent relief: Many government and non-profit agencies offer emergency rent assistance to tenants impacted by COVID, job loss, or other hardships.
  • Move out voluntarily: If you really can’t pay the rent, moving out on your own before the sheriff comes avoids having an actual eviction on your record. You may still owe the rent debt, but won’t have an eviction judgment entered against you.

After an Eviction Judgment

If your landlord wins the eviction case, don’t give up hope. You still have some options to challenge the decision, or at least buy more time:

  • File an appeal: In some cases, you can appeal the judgment and get a new trial. Act fast, as you have only 5 days after the judgment to file a notice of appeal.
  • Seek a stay of eviction: If you need more time to move, you can ask the court to delay the eviction date. This is called a “stay of eviction.” You may need to pay a bond to the court.
  • Get your security deposit back: Your landlord can’t keep your security deposit for unpaid rent if they evict you for nonpayment. Send a letter demanding it back. You can sue in small claims court if they refuse.

 

Navigating Through California’s Eviction Laws: Non-Payment of Rent Procedures

1. What is the first step in the eviction process in California?

When dealing with eviction due to non-payment of rent in California, the first step is typically to issue a notice to pay rent or quit to the tenant. This notice generally provides the tenant with a specified period, usually 3 days, to pay the overdue rent or vacate the property.

2. What happens if the tenant fails to pay rent or vacates after receiving the notice?

If the tenant fails to comply with the eviction notice by either paying the rent owed or moving out within the specified timeframe, the landlord may proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit in California courts.

3. What documents are necessary to begin the eviction process?

To evict a tenant in California, the landlord must serve the tenant with a written notice, such as a 3-day notice to pay or quit, which is a crucial step in California eviction laws. Following this, the landlord can file an eviction case with the appropriate court.

4. Are there any specific legal requirements for eviction notices in California?

Yes, when attempting to legally evict a tenant in California, it is essential to ensure that the eviction notice is served correctly and includes all necessary details as outlined in the lease or rental agreement. Failure to provide proper notice may delay the eviction process.

 

5. How long does the eviction process typically take in California?

The duration of an eviction case can vary.

When a California tenant is facing eviction for not paying rent, one of the first questions they usually have is how long the process takes from start to finish. The answer depends on the specific steps taken in each case, but here’s a general timeline:

  • The landlord must first give the tenant a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit. If the tenant pays all the rent owed within those 3 days, the eviction stops.
  • If the tenant doesn’t pay within the 3-day notice period, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit, called an “unlawful detainer,” typically around 3-5 days later.
  • The tenant is then served a copy of the eviction complaint and a 5-day summons to respond in court. If the tenant doesn’t respond within 5 business days, the landlord can ask the court for a default judgment, allowing the eviction to move forward more quickly.
  • If the tenant files a response, the court sets up an eviction trial, usually within 20 days. If the landlord wins at trial, they get a judgment for possession of the property.
  • After the judgment, the landlord can request the court issue a “writ of possession,” which goes to the sheriff’s department. The sheriff then posts a final 5-day notice on the property, informing the tenant they will be locked out by the end of the 5-day notice.

So in total, a typical uncontested eviction case in California takes about 5-8 weeks from the initial notice to the final lockout. But this timeline can vary quite a bit depending on how busy the courts are, if the tenant fights the case, and if any special rules apply, like pandemic-related eviction protections.

Protecting Your Tenant Rights in an Eviction

The eviction process heavily favors landlords, but you can take steps to assert your tenant rights:

  • Document everything in writing – your rent payments, requests for repairs, any notices from your landlord. Keep copies of all letters, emails, and texts.
  • Take photos and videos of your rental unit’s condition in case you need to prove the landlord didn’t maintain it.
  • Bring all your evidence and witnesses to court to support your defenses.
  • Attend all court hearings and file all documents on time. If you miss deadlines, you could lose automatically.
  • Consider talking to a tenant rights lawyer or legal aid organization for advice on your case. Many provide free or low-cost help.

Fighting an eviction case in court is stressful, but knowing your rights and being proactive can make the difference between keeping your housing and homelessness. Each case is unique, so seek legal help if possible and stay engaged throughout the process. With determination and the right tools, you have a fighting chance to stand up for your rights and protect your housing.