Believe it or not, evicting a tenant in California is a pretty straightforward process. In fact, you can complete an eviction quickly by following just a few simple steps. While A People’s Choice no longer provides legal document assistance for unlawful detainer/eviction proceedings, we’ve provided a step-by-step guide on how to evict a tenant in California. Check it out below!

7 Steps to Evict a Tenant in California

The eviction process is precise, so the necessary paperwork and steps require careful attention and precision, with little to no room for error. Oftentimes, we see landlords who have tried to complete the eviction process only to find their case kicked out of court for some minor discrepancy in their paperwork. Therefore, be sure to follow the outline below when you’re looking to evict a tenant in California.

Step One: Determine Legal Grounds for Eviction

One of the first steps in evicting a tenant in California is determining your legal grounds to do so. More specifically, under California law, a landlord can evict a tenant if they:

  • Fail to pay rent
  • Break the lease or breach another term of the rental agreement
  • Commit waste (for example, by damaging the property)
  • Become a serious nuisance to other tenants
  • Conduct illegal activity on the property

Step Two: Provide the Tenant with Notice

Once you’ve determined your legal grounds for eviction, California law requires you to notify the tenant of them with a “notice to vacate” or “notice to quit”.

The details of your notice will depend on the reason for eviction. If your reason is “curable”, meaning the tenant can do something to fix the problem and stop the eviction, the notice may provide the tenant with an opportunity to cure the defect. For example, you could provide them an opportunity to pay outstanding rent. Depending on the nature of the rental arrangement, you may want to consider using a mediator to help resolve your landlord-tenant dispute.

Note that a landlord must provide at least a 30 day notice when terminating month-to-month tenants. Additionally, tenants who have lived on the property a year or longer are entitled to a 60 day notice. However, for material breaches other than failing to pay rent, a landlord can provide a three day notice to the tenant.

Before you serve your tenant, understand that is not uncommon for tenants to try to avoid being served with notice. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to ensure you serve your tenant. For instance, we recommend hiring a professional process server to serve the tenant by one of the following methods:

  • Personally delivering a copy of the notice to the tenant
  • Leaving the notice with an adult person at the tenant’s residence
  • Obtaining a court order to post the notice on the tenant’s front door

That being said, if the tenant fails to cure the legal issue within the allotted time after being served with notice and they remain on the property, you will need to consider filing a civil suit. Your suit would be known as an unlawful detainer action against the tenant(s).

Step Three: File an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

One of the more detailed steps of evicting a tenant is completing the paperwork involved in the court process. Due to its complexities, we recommend you get some type of professional help preparing the required court paperwork for the California eviction process. You can hire an attorney or, alternatively, work with a legal document assistant to prepare and file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. However, note that A People’s Choice no longer provides assistance with unlawful detainer paperwork.

Step Four: Allow the Tenant Time to Respond or Vacate Premises

Once you file your complaint, the court will issue a summons to the tenant. After the date of service of the civil eviction complaint, the tenant has five days to file a response or move out. In some cases, a tenant will file a motion to attack the manner in which the landlord served them. This tactic is often used to delay the court process. However, in other instances, a tenant will simply file an answer to the complaint.

Step Five: Request a Court Date for Trial

If the tenant does not file an answer or respond to the court case within five days, you may be able to continue the process without a court trial. However, if the tenant does file an answer, you should immediately request a court trial date. Usually, a court trial is scheduled within 10-20 days of filing the request.

Step Six: Go to Court

As the landlord, if the matter continues to trial, you will need to bring records of the tenant’s violation and supporting evidence to court. Then, the judge will hear the case and make a ruling.

Step Seven: Have Sheriff Schedule Move Out

One of the last steps in evicting a tenant in California is arranging the formal move out. If the judge rules in your favor, they will sign a court order that terminates the tenant’s right to remain on the property. Additionally, the court clerk may also issue a Writ of Possession which you can take to the local sheriff’s office. At this time, the sheriff will serve the tenant with a copy of the writ, which will include a final five day notice to vacate. After the notice expires, the sheriff will meet you at the property, physically remove the tenants, and allow you to change the locks.

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