It is a terrifying prospect to face eviction, but if eviction is something that you might be dealing with, or may deal with in the near future, it is crucial that you know what to expect and that you know your rights.
If you are interested in learning about what comes with the California eviction process, as well as learning about the available defenses at your disposal, continue reading on!
Eviction notice and procedures in California
The only way that a landlord can legally evict a tenant in the state of California is by filling out an eviction lawsuit with the court and receiving a court order that would allow the eviction to take place.
Before doing that, however, the landlord is obligated to give the tenant a notice that they broke their lease agreement and that an eviction may be coming.
Even in the California eviction process, there are some specific rules that the landlord must follow. There are a number of different notices considering what aspect of the lease the tenant has broken.
Notice Requirements for Nonpayment of Rent
Once rent is late, a landlord is allowed to give the tenant in question a 3 day notice to evacuate or pay your rent. The notice has to state that the tenant has three days to either pay the rent or leave the rental unit. If the tenant does neither, the landlord can head to the court and file an eviction lawsuit with the court.
That is the good news, if you are a tenant. Even if you are unable to get your rent check in time, you do have a few more days to get it to your landlord of property manager. Though, you may face some extra fees if your rent check is late.
Notice Requirements for Lease Violations
A landlord also has the option to convict a tenant for violating the lease or rental agreement in other ways.
Common violations include a tenant having a pet when none are allowed in the building or unit, smoke violations, other kinds of damage, and more.
When this notice is given, the landlord once again is able to offer a three-day notice for the tenant to either comply or leave the building. If the tenant does not, the landlord once again has the option to head to the courthouse and file a lawsuit.
In some cases, such as the tenant is found breaking the law within the unit, the landlord can simply give the tenant a move-out notice that does not give them the option to stopping their behavior before facing consequences. This is obviously a rare circumstance, but it does happen.
What is the California eviction process?
To begin a lawsuit, the landlord must file a complaint and summons with the court. The complaint is where the landlord states the facts that justify the eviction and asks the court to order the tenant out and to enter a judgment against the tenant for unpaid rent and other costs.
The complain is where the landlord states why he or she is asking to an eviction, citing unpaid rent or other costs.
The summons is a notice that tells the tenant that he or she must tile a written response to the court within a set amount of time. If they don’t, they will lose the lawsuit outright.
The next step is that the court will set a date for a trial before a judge and then the tenant will receive a summons along with the date and time of the trial. If the tenant wants to fight the eviction, the tenant has a five-day period to file an answer or other written response to the court. The tenant is required to attend the trial before the judge. If the tenant chooses not to attend, the judge will very likely rule in the landlord’s favor.
If you are a tenant facing possible eviction, however, all hope is not totally lost.
Eviction Defenses in California
There are a number of popular defenses that tenants utilize if they are fighting a possible eviction. Those are as follows.
Landlord attempted to evict without use of court
In the state of California, a landlord can only evict a tenant by going through the court. It is illegal to do so otherwise. Other ways that landlords attempt to evict tenants in this “self-help” style is by changing the locks, shutting off utilities, and more. If this is the route your landlord decides to take, you as the tenant can sue your landlord for damages.
The unit was not maintained
In the state of California, a landlord is required to maintain a rental unit according to a set of minimum standards.
Examples include waterproofing, weather protection on roofs, walls, windows, and doors. If a landlord does not maintain the unit according to those standards, tenants are sometimes allowed to withhold rent. If you decide to withhold rent, you must make sure that you are complying with state law.
Landlord evicts tenant incorrectly
When attempting to evict a tenant in California, a landlord must carefully follow all the rules and regulations set forth in the California Code. If the landlord does not do so, the eviction may not be valid.
For example, if your landlord does not give you the required 3 day notice to evacuate and instead goes straight to the court, you would be able to defend against the eviction by claiming lack of notice. In this case, the court would likely dismiss the eviction case and the landlord would have to start all over.
It is important that this circumstance does not stop an eviction, instead it simply delays it. As soon as the landlord repairs the mistake they made, the California eviction process can start over again.
Tenant paid rent in full
A landlord is required to give you a 3 day notice to evacuate or pay your rent before filing an eviction lawsuit. It you are able to come up with the money you owe before that three-day period comes to an end, the landlord is not allowed to proceed with the eviction. If you are in this scenario, make sure to ask for a time-stamped receipt if paying rent so that you have proof that you paid back your rent in time.
Landlord discriminates against tenant
If you believe that you as a tenant may be the victim of a violation of the Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant based on race, religions, gender, place of origin, familial status, and disability, you can use the discrimination as a defense to the eviction.
Resources at your disposal
There are a number of resources at a tenants’ disposal when it comes to free or low-cost legal assistance in the case of an ensuing eviction.
Those are as follow:
- It is also a good idea to take a look at California Tenants’ Rights by Janet Portman and David Brown.