Most California unlawful detainer proceedings are filed by the landlord because the tenant has failed to pay the rent. No matter what the reason, before a landlord can file an unlawful detainer proceeding to evict a tenant, the tenant’s right to possession of the property must be terminated. Notice of this termination must be provided in writing and a landlord must follow strict procedures to legally obtain possession of the premises. The unlawful detainer process can take from 20 to 45 days, and sometimes more depending upon the court branch in which the case is filed.
There are many reasons a landlord may want to terminate a renter’s tenancy. They include:
- Nonpayment of rent,
- A violation of the rental or lease agreement,
- Renter engaging in illegal activity, or
- The property being sold.
Generally speaking, the type of situation will determine the type of notice required to be given to the tenant. In California, when rent is unpaid, a 3-day notice can be provided to the tenant. In situations when the tenant has paid the rent but the landlord wants the tenant to move, a 30-day notice is required. Tenancies over one year require 60 days notice. (This rule had previously expired effective 1/1/06, but became effective again 1/1/07.) With governmental subsidized tenancies, a longer 90-day notice is required. Certain areas may also be under rent control which imposes specific restrictions and regulations between landlords and their tenants.
The Court Process of Eviction
If after the expiration of the notice period the tenant remains in the property, the landlord must then proceed with filling the necessary court documents to obtain a court order for possession. This process is known as an unlawful detainer proceeding. In this process, the tenant must be served with the complaint. He or she then has five days to file response. Often tenants will file a response merely to delay the proceeding. If a response to unlawful detainer is filed, the matter will most likely have to proceed to a court trial before possession can be formally obtained.
Even after the court gives the landlord a judgment for possession of the property, some tenants may still remain in the property until the absolute last moment possible. Once an unlawful detainer judgment is obtained, the landlord will need to obtain a Writ of Possession that is served on the tenant by the Sheriff. The Sheriff will set a specific date on which the property will be turned over to the landlord. If the tenant remains in the property when the Sheriff arrives, the Sheriff will physically remove the occupants of the property and the landlord can make arrangements to change the locks.