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Jury Trial in California Evictions | 714-442-9741

Jury Trial in
California Evictions

Tenant’s Right:
Jury Trial in California Evictions

Discover the significance of a jury trial in California’s eviction proceedings. Learn how tenants can request and navigate the process for a just resolution.

Jury Trial in California Evictions

California Tenants: Jury Trial in California Evictions

Evicting a tenant in California can be a complicated process that may ultimately lead to a jury trial if the tenant contests the eviction. This guide covers everything landlords and tenants need to know about jury trials in California eviction cases.

The Eviction Process in California

The first step in any eviction is for the landlord to serve the tenant with a proper notice to vacate. The most common notices used in California include:

  • 30-day notice – For ending month-to-month tenancies when the tenant has lived in the unit for less than a year. No reason is required.
  • 60-day notice – For ending month-to-month tenancies when the tenant has lived in the unit for a year or more. No reason is required.
  • 90-day notice – Required for ending tenancies in rent-controlled units or properties with Section 8 tenants.
  • 3-day notice – For an eviction due to non-payment of rent or a lease violation.

The notice must be properly filled out and served on the tenant in accordance with California law. The tenant then has the opportunity to “cure” the issue, usually by paying rent or fixing a lease violation.

If the tenant fails to comply with the notice, the landlord can then file an Unlawful Detainer lawsuit to evict the tenant. This is the formal legal proceeding that may ultimately lead to a jury trial.

 

Notice Requirements for Evictions

  • Notices must be served properly, which usually means in person.
  • Notices must have the correct expiry dates and timelines.
  • Notices must accurately state the amount of rent owed or describe the lease violation.
  • Defective notices can invalidate the eviction case.

How to Legally Evict a Tenant

  • Follow the notice requirements carefully to avoid procedural defects.
  • Allow time for the tenant to comply, but act promptly if they don’t.
  • File the Unlawful Detainer lawsuit before the notice expires.
  • After getting a judgment, obtain a Writ of Possession to remove the tenant.

 

Jury Trial in California Evictions

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Notice Types

California landlords have several different notice types they can use to start the eviction process. The most common are:

30-day Notice

This no-fault notice is used to end month-to-month tenancies when the tenant has lived in the unit for less than a year. No reason is required. The landlord can simply give 30 days’ notice that the tenancy will end.

60-day Notice

For month-to-month tenants who have lived in the unit for a year or more, 60 days’ notice is required to terminate the tenancy without cause.

90-day Notice

A 90-day no-fault notice must be given to tenants in rent-controlled units or properties with Section 8 tenants. This lengthy notice period provides additional protections.

3-day Notice

If the tenant has failed to pay rent or violated the lease, a 3-day notice to “pay or quit” or “perform or quit” can be served. This notice gives the tenant a brief period to comply before eviction proceedings begin.

Different Notice Periods for Eviction

  • 30 days for tenancies under 1 year
  • 60 days for tenancies over 1 year
  • 90 days for rent-controlled and Section 8 units
  • Just 3 days for lease violations

Proper Service of Notices to Tenants

  • Notices usually must be served in person, directly to the tenant.
  • Mailed notices alone are not considered proper service in most cases.
  • Notices must be served to all known adult occupants.
  • Landlords should have another adult serve the notices to avoid disputes.

Tenant Defenses Against Eviction Notices

  • Notices were not served properly.
  • Notice did not give enough time to comply.
  • Notice makes false or inaccurate claims.
  • Property has habitability issues that were not addressed.
  • Landlord accepted rent after notice was served, invalidating it.

Parties Involved

The two main parties involved in every eviction case are the landlord and the tenant. Understanding their rights and responsibilities is key.

Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords

  • Must maintain habitable premises free of hazards and code violations.
  • Must make repairs in a timely manner when notified of issues.
  • Can enter rental units only after proper notice and at reasonable times.
  • Must follow eviction laws and not use “self-help” measures to remove tenants.
  • Must return security deposits with any deductions properly accounted for.

Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants

  • Must pay rent in full and on time as outlined in the lease.
  • Must not damage the rental property or disturb other tenants.
  • Must notify landlord promptly about necessary repairs.
  • Must allow landlord reasonable access to make repairs and inspect unit.
  • Must properly prepare unit and vacate by date specified in move-out notice.

Settling Disputes Between Landlords and Tenants

  • Open communication is key to resolving issues.
  • Landlords should document lease violations.
  • Tenants should make repair requests in writing.
  • Professional mediation services may help reach compromises.
  • Consult a housing attorney or legal aid clinic for guidance.

Legal Actions

If a tenant fails to voluntarily vacate the unit after proper notice, the landlord must take legal action through the courts to have the tenant evicted by force if necessary.

Filing an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

  • The UD lawsuit is filed in Superior Court in the county where the property is located.
  • It should be filed promptly before the notice period expires.
  • A copy of the notice and proof it was served must be included.
  • Court fees of around $400 are required to file the case.

Preparing for Your Day in Eviction Court

  • Gather documents like the lease and receipts showing damages or unpaid rent.
  • Photograph any damage to the unit.
  • Make copies of all documents for the court and defendant.
  • Subpoena witnesses if needed, such as contractors who estimated repair costs.
  • Dress professionally and arrive early to the courthouse.

Understanding the Eviction Trial Process

  • The judge will hear arguments from both sides.
  • Witnesses can be called to testify and evidence will be presented.
  • Tenant can argue reasons why eviction is improper or damages are inflated.
  • Judge (or jury) will then decide if eviction is warranted and any amounts owed.
Jury Trial in California Evictions

Trial Proceedings

After the Unlawful Detainer lawsuit is filed, it will eventually go to trial unless a settlement is reached. Tenants and landlords both need to understand the trial process.

Deciding Between a Jury Trial vs Bench Trial

Jury Trial

  • Either party can request a jury to decide the verdict.
  • More complicated than a bench trial.
  • Juror fees must be paid up front by requesting party.
  • Wider range of outcomes since jurors can be unpredictable.

Bench Trial

  • Trial is heard only by the judge, who renders the verdict.
  • The procedure is simpler than a jury trial.
  • No juror fees need to be paid.
  • Outcome may be more consistent than jury verdict.

What to Expect During an Eviction Trial

  • The plaintiff presents their case first.
  • Both sides can call and question witnesses.
  • Evidence like photos and documents are submitted.
  • Tenant defends by pointing out legal deficiencies in the case.
  • Court reporter transcribes everything said during trial.

Presenting Your Case in an Eviction Trial

  • Provide clear documentation of the amount of unpaid rent or details of lease violations.
  • Bring multiple copies of receipts, notices, invoices, letters and other relevant documents.
  • Explain why you are entitled to repossession of the property.
  • If damages are claimed, provide proof of estimated repair costs.
  • Photos documenting damage or lease violations can help sway the judge.

Payments

Money issues like unpaid rent and security deposits are often at the heart of eviction cases.

Collecting Rent and Security Deposits

  • Accept payments by check or money order whenever possible to have records.
  • Provide receipts for cash payments. Track payments closely.
  • Deposit security deposits in interest-bearing accounts as required by law.
  • Never co-mingle deposits with personal funds or other accounts.

When Tenants Fail to Pay Rent

  • Send written reminders when rent is 5-10 days late.
  • Speak with tenant to understand why rent is late.
  • Offer reasonable payment plans or assistance programs if needed.
  • Serve proper notice to pay or quit once rent is substantially delayed.

Recovering Unpaid Rent and Damages

  • Unpaid rent can be recovered through wage garnishment after getting a money judgment.
  • Having tenants sign promissory notes for unpaid amounts provides more options.
  • Photographic evidence is key for proving property damages to the judge.
  • Repair cost estimates from licensed contractors help substantiate damage claims.

Outcomes

There are several potential outcomes that can result from an eviction trial. Understanding the possible end results will help both landlords and tenants decide how to proceed with their case.

Possible Outcomes of an Eviction Case

For the landlord:

  • Eviction order granted plus judgment for unpaid rent or damages.
  • Eviction denied but monetary judgment awarded for amounts owed.
  • Full recovery of the unit plus monetary compensation.

For the tenant:

  • Case dismissed outright if procedural defects are found.
  • Eviction granted but demands for extra money denied.
  • Additional time granted to find new housing.

Carrying Out a Court Ordered Eviction

  • If eviction is approved, the judge will issue a Writ of Possession.
  • This court order authorizes the sheriff to remove the tenant if they don’t leave voluntarily.
  • The landlord arranges with the sheriff’s office to carry out the lockout.
  • A deputy sheriff will supervise removal of the tenant’s belongings if necessary.

Next Steps After Evicting a Tenant

  • Immediately change the locks once the tenant vacates the unit.
  • Photograph the condition of the unit after the tenant leaves.
  • Make any necessary repairs to restore the unit to rental condition.
  • Return the security deposit promptly if no damages or unpaid rent.
  • Hire an eviction cleanup crew if tenant left possessions behind.
  • Begin marketing and screening new tenant applicants.

Requesting a Jury Trial

For landlords and tenants going through an eviction, one important decision that must be made early on is whether to request a jury trial or opt for a bench trial heard only before a judge. There are pros and cons to each to consider.

Reasons a Landlord May Choose a Jury Trial

  • Want to avoid a “tenant-friendly” judge who may rule sympathetically.
  • Believe a jury will understand the landlord’s position better.
  • Feel jurors will be outraged by tenant damages/behavior.
  • Want the widest range of outcomes a jury could give.

Reasons a Landlord May Prefer a Bench Trial

  • Concerned about the extra time and complexity of a jury trial.
  • Unsure whether sufficient evidence is present.
  • Wants a potentially more predictable result from a judge.
  • Does not want to have to pay jury fees upfront.

Why a Tenant May Opt for a Jury Trial

  • Thinks a jury may be more sympathetic to a tenant’s situation.
  • Feels a judge who frequently hears eviction cases may be biased.
  • Hopes for jury nullification if the laws seem unfair as applied.
  • Believes the facts/equity is on their side but the law is not.

Why a Tenant May Decline a Jury Trial

  • Wants to avoid the risk of an unpredictably large judgment.
  • Thinks a judge will better understand the nuances of the law.
  • Worried about the greater costs if the jury rules against them.
  • Is low-income and does not want to pay increased court fees.

How Tenants Can Request a Jury Trial

  • Check the box requesting a jury trial on the response form when served.
  • File a demand for jury trial at least 5 days before the trial date.
  • Pay a $150 jury fee deposit in advance or request a fee waiver.
  • Complete the Jury Selection questionnaire sent by the court.

The Jury Selection Process

  • Prospective jurors are screened for eligibility and conflicts of interest.
  • Attorneys can question jurors and request dismissal of certain individuals.
  • 6 to 12 jurors are randomly selected once the pool is finalized.
  • The jury is sworn in and receives instructions from the judge.
  • Opening arguments are made before evidence is presented.

Tips for Presenting Your Case to a Jury

  • Explain background details clearly so jury understands context.
  • Don’t make assumptions about jurors’ knowledge of the law or procedures.
  • Make your narrative easy for jurors to follow. Be concise.
  • Appeal to jurors’ common sense and life experience during arguments.
  • Anticipate and address biases or skepticism jurors may have.

Potential Outcomes of Jury Trials

  • Plaintiff wins eviction but jury denies claims for damages.
  • Jury rules in favor of defendant on a technicality, dismissing case.
  • Damages awarded are higher/lower than what landlord asked for.
  • Jurors compromise by approving just partial back rent claims.
  • Jury sympathizes more with underdog tenant and rules in their favor.

The Tenant’s Perspective

For tenants, being taken to eviction court can be a stressful and frightening experience. Understanding the process and knowing what to expect can help tenants better defend themselves.

Typical Reasons a Tenant Ends Up in Eviction Court

  • Falling behind in rent due to financial hardship.
  • Dispute with landlord over maintenance issues.
  • Misunderstanding lease terms and unknowingly violating them.
  • Roommate moved out, leaving remaining tenants unable to afford rent.
  • Damage to unit exceeding security deposit amount.

Emotional Effects of Eviction on Tenants

  • High stress worrying about finding new housing with an eviction on record.
  • Anxiety about the court process and fear of public speaking.
  • Embarrassment of having to tell family, friends, employer about eviction.
  • Sadness leaving a home/neighborhood they were settled in.
  • Anger at landlord perceived as unreasonable and unaccommodating.
Jury Trial in California Evictions

How Tenants Can Avoid Evictions

  • Maintain open communication with the landlord.
  • Request reasonable modifications if struggling to pay rent.
  • Comply promptly with lease requirements and violation notices.
  • Follow the proper procedures for requesting maintenance.
  • Allow inspections and landlord entry with proper notice.

Tenant Rights in Eviction Cases

  • Right to proper notice with correct info and served properly.
  • Right to respond and defend against allegations made.
  • Right to request a jury trial instead of bench trial.
  • Right to appeal an adverse decision.
  • Right to avoid retaliation or discrimination by landlord.

Resources for Tenants Facing Eviction

Legal aid organizations – pro bono housing attorneys

Tenant advocacy nonprofits – counseling and defence programs

Rent assistance agencies – emergency help paying back rent

Housing counselors – assistance with section 8, relocation etc.

Landlord-tenant mediation – free dispute resolution service

The Landlord’s Situation

Landlords seeking to evict a non-paying or problematic tenant also face stress and financial uncertainty. Understanding eviction laws helps landlords through the process.

Common Reasons Landlords Pursue Evictions

  • Tenant stopped paying rent.
  • Tenant repeatedly violates lease terms.
  • Tenant engages in criminal activity on premises.
  • Tenant damages property extensively.
  • Landlord wants to renovate units or convert use.

Effects of Problem Tenants on Landlords

  • Loss of rental income while trying to evict tenant.
  • Costly property damage repairs.
  • Inability to rent other vacant units if problem tenant scares away applicants.
  • Stress and lost sleep trying to resolve issues.
  • Negative reviews hurting reputation with future tenants.

How Landlords Can Prevent Evictions

  • Screen applicants thoroughly before renting to them.
  • Clearly explain all lease terms and policies in writing.
  • Address minor issues before they escalate.
  • Offer payment plans or cash assistance if tenant falls behind.
  • Communicate in a professional, calm manner.

Landlord Responsibilities in Evictions

  • Providing safe, habitable premises free of violations.
  • Making repairs promptly when notified by tenants.
  • Serving all required legal notices properly.
  • Following court procedures faithfully.
  • Holding security deposit in a compliant account.

Getting Help With Evictions

Attorneys – Ensure proper notices, legal procedures followed.

Eviction services – Serve notices, file paperwork, represent at trial.

Property managers – Handle notices, court filings, sheriff lockouts.

Landlord associations – Advice, forms, referrals, legal funds.

Small claims court – Recover unpaid rent and damages.

Going to Eviction Court

For both landlords and tenants, appearing in eviction court can be intimidating. Being prepared and knowing what to expect can help.

How to Prepare for Your Eviction Trial

  • Gather relevant documents and evidence like notices, leases, receipts, photos etc.
  • Make copies for yourself, the court, and defendant. Bring at least 4 full sets.
  • Organize your evidence neatly in a binder with tabs or chronological order.
  • Ensure your witnesses know when

What to Expect in Eviction Court

  • You’ll have to pass through courthouse security to enter the courtroom. Remove prohibited items.
  • Arrive early to allow time for parking, finding the right courtroom, and signing in with the clerk.
  • The judge will call the case, and you’ll be told where to sit/stand.
  • The judge will confirm both parties are present then allow arguments and testimony.
  • When it’s your turn to speak, address the judge formally as “Your Honor.” Speak clearly and only when addressed.
  • The plaintiff (landlord) presents their case first, followed by the defense.
  • A court reporter will transcribe everything said during the trial by all parties.
  • Remain calm, even if the judge rules against you or the opposing party raises their voice.

How to Present Your Case Effectively

  • Stick to just the key relevant facts. Don’t include unimportant details.
  • Be prepared to answer questions from the judge about your claims.
  • Refer to documents or evidence when describing important dates, facts, or statements.
  • If you don’t understand a question, politely ask the judge to clarify.
  • When finished testifying, the judge may allow follow-up questions from the opposition. Answer honestly.

What to Wear to Your Court Date

  • Dress professionally and conservatively. No ripped clothing.
  • Men should wear a suit and tie or at minimum a dress shirt and slacks.
  • Women should wear a business dress/skirt or blouse and dress pants.
  • Don’t wear shorts, tank tops, mini skirts, or sandals/flip flops.
  • Remove hats and limit jewelry to small, non-distracting pieces.
  • Cover any large tattoos and remove facial piercings if possible.

How Landlords Should Prepare for Trial

  • Have current ledgers showing rent payments and balance due.
  • Include copies of all notices served to tenant with proof of service.
  • Photograph any damage to rental unit. Get repair estimates from contractors.
  • Make copies of lease, rent receipts, warning letters sent to tenant.
  • Bring any witnesses who can testify first-hand, like a process server.

How Tenants Should Prepare

  • Take photos showing any defects, code violations impacting habitability.
  • Make copies of repair requests submitted to landlord.
  • Gather evidence if eviction is retaliatory or discriminatory.
  • Bring witnesses who can testify about uninhabitable conditions.
  • Submit any evidence of hardship if withholding rent.

What to Do If You Lose Your Eviction Trial

For landlords:

  • Consult an attorney about options to appeal the verdict.
  • Sue the tenant in small claims court if seeking monetary damages.
  • Review your case objectively to improve preparation for any future trials.

For tenants:

  • Immediately stop any rent withholding and work out a payment plan.
  • Appeal the verdict if proper procedures were not followed.
  • Begin looking for a new rental unit if the eviction order stands.
  • Obtain housing counseling to avoid homelessness.

Sheriff Evictions After Court Order

If a judge rules in the landlord’s favor in an eviction lawsuit, the next step is having the sheriff forcibly remove tenants if they don’t leave voluntarily.

The Eviction Order and Writ of Possession

  • If the court grants the eviction, the judge issues a judgment called a Writ of Possession.
  • This authorizes the sheriff to evict the tenant and return possession to the landlord.
  • The landlord takes a copy of the signed Writ to the local Sheriff’s office civil division.
  • A deputy will serve the tenant with a Notice to Vacate with a firm date by which they must leave.

Scheduling the Sheriff Lockout

  • The landlord pays a fee for an eviction crew to arrive on the scheduled lockout date.
  • Typical cost is $700 on average but can exceed $1000 for larger properties or when movers are needed.
  • The date must allow enough time for tenants to receive the Notice to Vacate and make arrangements.
  • Lockouts are usually scheduled about 2 weeks after tenants are served with the Notice.

The Sheriff Eviction Process

  • On the scheduled date, deputies meet the landlord at the property.
  • They knock loudly and announce themselves before entering.
  • If needed, the sheriff cuts locks and doors are forced open.
  • Tenants are ordered to immediately vacate the premises.
  • Deputies can arrest any tenants who refuse to cooperate or interfere.

Removing the Tenant’s Belongings

  • The landlord can request movers to remove and store the tenant’s property.
  • Typically everything is set outside, either in the unit or somewhere on the grounds.
  • The sheriff will only allow removal of obviously valuable items like cash.
  • Landlords should photograph and inventory possessions left behind.

After the Sheriff Eviction

  • Landlord should change the locks immediately.
  • Make repairs and clean up any damage left behind.
  • Legally dispose of abandoned property after providing proper notice.
  • Return to court if tenant refuses to leave or breaks back in.
  • Begin screening new tenant applicants.

Jury Trials vs Bench Trials

Two trial formats are used in eviction cases – jury trials heard by jurors, and bench trials decided by a judge alone. Both have pros and cons for landlords and tenants to weigh.

Key Differences Between Jury Trials and Bench Trials

Jury Trials

  • Heard before 6 or 12 jurors who decide verdict
  • More complicated legal procedures
  • Unpredictable outcomes
  • Juror fees must be paid upfront

Bench Trials

  • Judge alone hears case and renders verdict
  • Simpler and often shorter
  • More consistent rulings
  • No juror fees required

Pros of Jury Trials for Landlords

  • Jury may sympathize more with property owner
  • Can avoid perceived “tenant friendly” judge
  • Jurors may react strongly to tenant misbehavior
  • Chance of much higher damages award

Cons of Jury Trials for Landlords

  • Need to pay juror deposit up front
  • More time spent on jury screening/selection
  • Uncertainty over which way jury will rule
  • Tenant may request appeal of excessive verdict

Pros of Jury Trials for Tenants

  • Jury may be more sympathetic to a tenant
  • Can avoid seasoned judge hearing frequent eviction cases
  • Unpredictability of jury verdict
  • Ability of jury to “nullify” unfair law

Cons of Jury Trials for Tenants

  • Need to pay juror deposit upfront if requesting
  • Higher chance of inflated damages award
  • Lack of jury trial experience disadvantage
  • Appealing a verdict is complex and difficult

When Landlords Typically Choose Jury Trials

  • When tenant caused severe property damage
  • If criminal activity occurred on property
  • For high-value commercial property cases
  • When evicting controversial tenants (like Section 8)

When Tenants Typically Request Jury Trials

  • In rent control jurisdictions
  • If habitability or retaliation claims present
  • When eviction would cause extreme hardship
  • If landlord has history of discrimination

Preparing for Trial

Thorough preparation is crucial for both landlords and tenants prior to an eviction trial to ensure the best outcome.

How Landlords Should Prepare

  • Gather all original leases, notices served, receipts, letters to tenant etc.
  • Make at least 4 copies of all documents to bring to court.
  • Take date-stamped photos showing unit condition and any damages.
  • Have repair estimates from licensed contractors for claimed damages.
  • Make a timeline of key events such as notices served, letters sent, etc.
  • Ensure all rent payment ledgers are up to date.
  • Arrange for credible witnesses like process server to testify.

What Tenants Should Do to Prepare

  • Take extensive photos documenting any code violations or needed repairs.
  • Make copies of all repair requests submitted to landlord.
  • Gather evidence if eviction is discriminatory or retaliatory.
  • Bring credible witnesses to testify first-hand about conditions.
  • Get written statements from witnesses if they can’t attend trial.
  • Ask neighbors to appear if they’ve had similar issues.
  • Make a thorough timeline of disputes, notices, conversations etc.

Organizing Your Court Documents

  • Create tabs separating documents into logical categories.
  • Highlight or circle important dates and information on documents.
  • Prepare a table of contents page listing all tabs with brief description.
  • Bring originals and 4 full photocopied sets (one for judge, plaintiff, defense, yourself).
  • Neatly label and number each set of photocopies.

Questions the Judge May Ask You:

  • Please state your name/address for the record.
  • What is your relation to the property in question?
  • When did you purchase/begin renting the property?
  • What amount of rent was owed each month under the lease terms?
  • On what date did you serve notice to the tenant?
  • Can you describe the condition of the unit when vacated by tenant?
  • Do you have evidence to document the claimed damages?
  • Why are you seeking to evict the tenant at this time?

Objections the Other Party May Raise

  • Leading the witness
  • Speculation
  • Lack of foundation
  • Hearsay
  • Evidence not previously disclosed
  • Beyond scope of direct examination
  • Argumentative
  • Compound questions

Settling Before Trial

Settling an eviction dispute before trial allows both landlords and tenants to avoid the time, stress, and uncertainty of litigation.

Why Settlement May Benefit the Landlord

  • Avoidlost rental income during lengthy trial process.
  • Don’t have to gamble on judge/jury decision.
  • Guaranteed payment from tenant vs possibility of nothing.
  • No need to pay attorney/court fees and bills.
  • Quicker resolution provides certainty and closure.

Why Settlement May Benefit the Tenant

  • Prevent eviction from showing up on records if dismissed.
  • More time can be negotiated to move out.
  • Potentially lower payment amount than trial judgment.
  • Avoid stress of trial and public speaking.
  • Maintain positive reference from landlord.