Sometimes, people have difficulty finding an ideal roommate. In a worst case scenario, the roommate may refuse to pay rent or comply with the terms of the lease. In such cases, you may find yourself dealing with the question of how to evict a roommate in California.

Types of Roommate Arrangements

In California, there are two types of roommate arrangements in which 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. Also, one roommate cannot evict a co-tenant from a rental without just cause.

2. Roommate as Subtenant

To sublet means that one tenant has a contractual agreement with the landlord. After making this agreement, the tenant then contracts with another person as a roommate or housemate. This contract occurs under independent terms and conditions in which the subtenant pays the tenant rent.

While a co-tenant can evict a subtenant, a subtenant cannot evict anyone. Finally, the landlord can evict all tenants from the premises.

Unintended Subtenants

In California, if someone resides in an apartment for 30 days or more, they are considered a tenant, whether or not they signed a lease or formal rental tenancy agreement. In fact, long-term guests can unexpectedly become a tenant roommate without any type of rental agreement!

After 30 days, the guest is considered a co-tenant and can only be evicted by the landlord under legal due process if they do not leave voluntarily. Additionally, a roommate can only evict a subtenant if they were allowed by the roommate to stay in the property with or without the payment of rent under a subtenant agreement.

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:

  • Failed to pay rent
  • Violated a provision of the sublease
  • Materially damaged the rental property
  • Substantially interfered with the other tenants
  • Committed domestic violence against another tenant
  • Used the rental property for unlawful purposes
  • 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.

How 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 days is the minimum requirement for month-to-month subtenants. However, if the subtenant complies with the demands of the notice, such as paying back rent, then they may continue residing on the property.

Furthermore, a tenant can provide the subtenant with a three-day notice if they meet the criteria above for eviction. However, the tenant must provide the subtenant with a detailed explanation about the reason for eviction pursuant to the three-day notice.

2. Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

Once the notice period concludes, if the subtenant is still occupying the premises, the tenant may file an unlawful detainer to legally evict them. To initiate 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. Then, the subtenant will have to respond within five days or vacate the premises.

Additionally, the subtenant can oppose the complaint and file a response. Under these circumstances, the court will set a hearing date on which both parties must attend court and discuss the merits of their case. Then, 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 serve the subtenant with a five-day “lock out” notice to vacate. However, if the subtenant refuses to leave by the “lock out” deadline, the sheriff will physically remove the subtenant on the day of “lock out.” On this date, the tenant can legally change the lock on the apartment.

“Dos” and “Donts” When Evicting A Roommate

If you’re a tenant learning how to evict a roommate in California, be sure to follow these “dos” and “donts”:


  • keep good records of your dealings with the subtenant
  • offer a financial incentive for them to move out
  • get the police involved immediately and/or get a restraining order if you fear for your safety
  • follow the required legal procedures


  • get involved in verbal or physical altercations with the subtenant
  • change the locks, as doing so without a court order may subject you to criminal and monetary fines

*Note: A People’s Choice no longer prepares unlawful detainer/eviction documents

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