Eviction Delay Services are Currently offered in all of California,Hawaii, Washington

Evictions Questions and Answers:


General Information/California State


Can a landlord evict a tenant?


Maybe. In California, a landlord may be able to evict a tenant if the tenant:


  • Is behind on the rent,
  • Breaks the lease or rental agreement and will not fix the problem (like having a pet if the contract doesn't allow it and refuses to get rid of it),
  • Commits waste and damages the property, bringing down the value,
  • Becomes a serious nuisance and disturbs other tenants and neighbors often and will not stop when asked, or
  • Uses the property to do something illegal.


In most cities, the landlord can also evict the tenant if:


  • The tenant stays after the lease is up*,
  • If the landlord cancels the rental agreement*.


How does a landlord evict a tenant?


  • First, the landlord gives the tenant written notice. If the tenant doesn't do what the notice asks, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer in court when the notice period ends.
  • If the judge agrees with the landlord or if the tenant does not answer the court papers, the court will order the sheriff to evict the tenant. If the judge agrees with the tenant, the tenant will get to stay.


What is an unlawful detainer?


  • An unlawful detainer is a lawsuit that a landlord files in court to evict a tenant. If the judge agrees with the landlord, the landlord can ask the sheriff to physically remove the tenant from the rental unit. If not, the tenant can stay in the property.


Can a landlord evict a tenant without filing an unlawful detainer?


No. It is against the law for landlords to evict tenants on their own. Even if the tenant is months behind on the rent, the landlord cannot:


  • Physically remove the tenant,
  • Get rid of the tenant's personal property,
  • Lock the tenant out,
  • Cut off the utilities, like water or electricity,
  • Remove outside windows or doors, or
  • Change the locks.


What if there is no written lease or rental agreement?


  • A lease or rental agreement does not need to be in writing to be valid. You can have an oral lease or agreement, just like you can have an oral contract. The same rules apply with written or oral agreements.


How can I find out if a unit is rent-controlled?


Most rental units in California are not rent-controlled. But if the unit is in a city with rent control, there may be many more protections in place for tenants that you should know about. The best way to find out if rent control applies to a unit is to check with the city or county offices, with the local legal aid, self help center, or law library. Or visit these websites:



Alert: The information at these websites may not be current, so be sure to also check with your city or county offices.


What cases are not suited to unlawful detainers?


Unlawful detainers are not for cases where:


  • A tenant wants the landlord to fix something in the apartment,
  • A tenant moved out but still owes the landlord for unpaid rent or damages,
  • There are disputes about fraud or ownership, or
  • There is a dispute about the security deposit after the tenant moves out.


Most of these cases are handled in Small Claims Court.


How long does the unlawful detainer process take?


Usually about 30 days. The tenant has 5 days to file a response after being served with the landlord's lawsuit. Then, the clerk will schedule a trial within 20 days of the landlord's request. The trial usually takes one day.


How many days does the tenant have to move out before the eviction?


The Sheriff usually gives the tenant about 5 days before evicting them


Do the landlord and tenant need a lawyer?


The landlord and tenant do not have to get a lawyer. But, there are strict court rules and court forms you have to fill out, file and serve. The rules and forms are complicated. And if you don't do things correctly, you may lose your case. Also, there are some cities that have special rent control laws that can complicate the case.


The court cannot appoint a lawyer for you. Get help by using our Eviction Delay Service Program. To see if you qualify please fax your 3 Day Notice to Quit to us.


Can a tenant sue a landlord for trying to evict him/her?


A tenant cannot file a counter-suit against the landlord in the unlawful detainer case. But, if the tenant has claims against the landlord for personal injury or damage to the tenant's personal property, the tenant can file a separate lawsuit.


Also, if the landlord tries to evict the tenant illegally, the tenant can file a lawsuit against the landlord for "wrongful eviction" and ask for punitive damages in addition to the damages the tenant actually suffered. If the tenant wins, the landlord may have to pay the tenant a lot of money. Even if the landlord wins this lawsuit, the lawyer fees can be very high. That's why it is very important that both landlords and tenants follow all the legal procedures properly.


What if the tenant works for the landlord?


If the tenant works for the landlord and lives on the property without paying rent as a condition of employment, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer if the tenant no longer works for the landlord. It doesn't matter if the tenant quits or is laid off.


What if the tenant lives in a residential hotel?


If you live in a residential hotel that has 6 or more rooms for 30 days or more and the hotel is your primary residence, you have the same legal rights as a tenant. The manager is not allowed to make you check out and re-register to prevent you from gaining the legal rights of a tenant.


What if the tenant lives in a tax credit unit?


There are special eviction rules for tenants who live in tax credit units. The landlord must give the tenant an explanation for ending the landlord-tenant arrangement, and s/he must have a good reason ("just cause") for eviction.


What if there is a foreclosure on the rental unit?


It depends. If a tenant is in good standing and the property goes into foreclosure through no fault of the tenant, the new owner must honor the existing lease. BUT, in month-to-month leases or when the people occupying the property are the owners who are being foreclosed on, the new owner can evict the tenants or former owners. In these cases, the new owner may either (1) offer the existing tenants a new lease agreement or (2) begin eviction proceedings. If the new owner chooses to evict existing tenants, the new owner must give tenants' at least 90 days notice before starting eviction proceedings.


Tenants in some California cities may still have a right to stay in their buildings. Cities with eviction or rent control laws prohibit new owners from using foreclosure as a reason for evicting tenants.


What responsibilities do landlords have?


Landlords must make sure:


  • The outside walls, windows and doors protect you against water or weather.
  • The plumbing and gas fittings work properly.*
  • There is hot and cold running water, appropriate fixtures, an approved sewage system, and the water supply is not contaminated.*
  • There is a working heater.
  • There is adequate lighting and electrical wiring that meets safety standards.*
  • The premises and common areas must be clean and free from pests.
  • There are adequate garbage containers.
  • The floors, stairways and railings are not broken.


What responsibilities do tenants have?


Tenants must:


  • Keep the rental unit clean.
  • Dispose of trash in a sanitary manner.
  • Operate electrical, gas and plumbing fixtures properly.
  • Not damage or remove any part of the rental unit, its facilities, or equipment.
  • Use the rental unit as a home and live, sleep, cook and dine in the intended areas.


What about security deposits?


  • After a tenant moves out, a landlord has 21 days to return the tenant's deposit, or give the tenant a written letter explaining why the landlord is keeping all or part of the deposit.
  • Security deposit cases are usually handled in small claims court. They cannot be dealt with in an unlawful detainer.


California Courts Self-Help: http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp.htm


To get a price quote please fax us your 3 Day Notice to Quit


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*Dont Walk Yet is in no way trying to permanently prevent foreclosure. We are not offering any legal advice nor representing you in any way. We advise clients to consult their local attorney or professional. Dont Walk Yet is not collecting any advanced fees from home owners in foreclosure.Dont Walk Yet should be used as the last resort for anyone who intends to keep their home after exhausting all other avenues.