It’s rare that people find the ideal roommate to live with. In a worst case scenario, the roommate may refuse to pay rent or comply with the terms of the lease and you may find yourself dealing with the question of how to evict a roommate in California. This article will share important details about filing an unlawful detainer eviction proceeding, and address how to evict a roommate in California. Contact A People’s Choice for more information about filing this type of unlawful detainer action.

Types of Roommate Arrangements

In California, there are two types of roommate arrangements when the landlord does not live in the rental unit:

1. Roommates as Co-Tenants

A co-tenant arrangement occurs when all roommates have a contractual relationship with the landlord. Both co-tenants pay the landlord rent directly.

2. Roommate as Sub-Tenant

To sublet means that one tenant has a contractual agreement with the landlord. After being bound by the agreement with the landlord, the tenant contracts with another person (a roommate or housemate) under independent terms and conditions in which the subtenant pays the tenant rent.

Co-tenants cannot be evicted from a rental without just cause. A co-tenant can, however, evict a subtenant roommate. A subtenant cannot evict anyone. The landlord can evict all tenants from the premises.

How Guests May Become Unintended Subtenants

In California, if someone resides in an apartment for 30 days or more, he/she will be considered a tenant, regardless if he/she signed a lease or formal rental tenancy agreement. Long-term guests can unexpectedly become a tenant roommate even without any type of rental agreement. After 30 days, the guest will be considered a co-tenant and can only be evicted by the landlord under legal due process, if they do not voluntarily leave on their own accord. Once the guest becomes a tenant, so long as he/she lives up to whatever verbal agreement he/she made about paying rent, he/she has the legal right to stay. The guest-turned-tenant will need to be provided written notice to vacate as required under California law. A roommate can only evict a subtenant if there was a subtenant agreement made in which the guest, now a subtenant, was allowed by the roommate to stay in the property with or without the payment of rent.

Criteria to Evict A Roommate

In order to evict a roommate, the tenant must provide proof that the subtenant committed one of the following acts:

  1. Failed to pay rent
  2. Violated a provision of the sub-lease
  3. Materially damaged the rental property
  4. Substantially interfered with the other tenants
  5. Committed domestic violence against another tenant
  6. Used the rental property for unlawful purposes
  7. Committed unlawful conduct involving weapons or ammunition.

The tenant may also choose to end the subtenant’s right to the premises with valid notice of termination, usually 30 days notice if the guest’s tenancy is under one year.

Process to Evict A Roommate

In order to evict a roommate in California, a tenant must follow the process below:

1. Provide Written Notice

Before filing a formal legal procedure to evict a subtenant, the tenant must provide the subtenant with written notice to leave the premises within 30 or 60 days. Thirty (30) days is the minimum requirement for month-to-month subtenants.  If the subtenant complies with the demands of the notice, such as paying back rent, then he/she can continue residing on the property. A tenant can provide the subtenant with a three day notice if he/she meets the criteria above for eviction. Note, the tenant must provide the subtenant with a detailed explanation about why he/she is being evicted pursuant to the 3 day notice.

2. Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

Once the notice period concludes, if the subtenant is still occupying the premises, an unlawful detainer action can be filed to have him/her legally evicted. The filing of the unlawful detainer complaint starts the formal eviction process. The tenant will need to file the complaint with the court and serve the summons and a copy of the complaint on the subtenant. The subtenant will have to respond within 5 days or vacate the premises. The subtenant can oppose the complaint and file a response. The court will then set a court date. Both parties will be required to go to court and discuss the merits of their case. After hearing both sides of the issue, the judge will issue a final ruling. If the judge rules in favor of the tenant, the local sheriff can be requested to serve the subtenant with a 5 day “lock out” notice to vacate. If the subtenant refuses to leave by the “lock out” deadline, the sheriff will physically remove the subtenant on the day of “lock out.” The tenant can then legally change and place a new lock on the apartment.

Do’s and Dont’s When Evicting A Roommate

Here are some important pointers when dealing with how to evict a roommate in California.

  • Keep good records of your dealings with the subtenant and never get into verbal or physical altercations with him/her.
  • Offer a financial incentive to have them move out. This may be just enough motivation they need to move quietly and avoid a long drawn out court process.
  • Don’t change the locks. You can get a lock on your private bedroom door, but don’t lock them out of the apartment. Doing so without a court order may subject you to criminal and monetary fines.
  • If you fear for your safety, get the police involved immediately. You may want to try to get a restraining order against them.
  • Follow the required legal procedures. This will help you attain a judgment in your favor if the matter goes to court.

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