As a landlord, if you are looking to evict a tenant in California you must have legal ground to do so and serve the required notice prior to filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit.  Read on to learn more about how to file an eviction in California.

The unlawful detainer eviction process in California is exacting and procedural. A minor deficiency or flaw in the paperwork or process can result in the judgment being denied, with the landlord’s only recourse to start over!

Reasons to Evict a Tenant in California

As a landlord, if you are considering evicting a tenant in California, you must have a legal reason to do so. Typically, a landlord can terminate a month-to-month tenancy simply by providing the tenant with a 30-day notice. In the alternative, a landlord can provide a 3-day notice to terminate a tenancy based on one of the following circumstances:

  1. The tenant failed to pay rent
  2. The tenant violated a material provision of the lease agreement
  3. The tenant materially damaged the rental property
  4. The tenant committed a nuisance that substantially interfered with the other tenants
  5. The tenant used the rental property for illegal purposes
  6. The tenant used the premises to conduct dogfighting
  7. The tenant illegally possesses weapons on the property

A tenant will have 3 days to voluntarily leave the property upon receiving proper notice. If the tenant fails to leave within the specified period of time, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in Superior Court. Note, subsidize housing programs limit allowable reasons for eviction. Also, a conviction cannot be retaliatory or based on discrimination.

Types of Preliminary Eviction Notices in California

Depending on the circumstances of the eviction, a landlord can provide one of the following types of preliminary eviction notices:

1. Month-to-Month Tenancy Preliminary Eviction Notice

A landlord can provide a month-to-month tenant with a written 30-day notice to vacate the unit. If the tenant has resided on the property for less than 12 months, the landlord can provide a 30-day notice. If the tenant has resided on the property longer than 12 months, the landlord must provide the tenant with a 60-day notice.

2. Three Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

If the tenant fails to pay rent, a landlord can serve the tenant with a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit. The notice must provide sufficient detail and state the amount of rent due.

3. Three Day Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit

If the tenant violates a provision in the lease that does not include paying rent, the landlord can serve a 3-day notice to perform the covenant or quit. For example, if the lease agreement states that tenants are not allowed to own pets during the term of the agreement, and a tenant has a dog in the unit, then the landlord can serve a 3-day notice to perform or quit on the tenant. The notice should allow for the tenant to correct the problem within the specified period of time.

4. Three Day Notice to Quit

A 3-day notice to quit can be served on a tenant who violates a term of the rental agreement that cannot be fixed.

Steps to Evict a Tenant in California

Review the steps below to learn how to file an eviction in California:

  1. Establish a legal ground to evict the tenant.
  2. Serve the tenant with the proper preliminary notice.
  3. Wait for the notice to expire.
  4. File the unlawful detainer legal documents with the court:
  5. Serve the tenant with the legal documents.
  6. Receive the tenant’s response to the complaint and continue through the court process to trial.
  7. Set lock out with Sheriff.

California Eviction Timeline

The amount of time it takes to evict a tenant in California depends on what the tenant is being evicted for and the jurisdiction’s current caseload. The notice period can range anywhere from 3 to 60 days depending on the tenancy status.

After proper notice is rendered, and the tenant fails to cure, the landlord will have to file an action for unlawful detainer. It can take the landlord 7 to 15 business days or more  to complete the required forms, file them with the court and serve the tenant. The tenant will have 5 court days to provide a response.

After receipt of the response, the landlord will need to request a court date. It is usually set within 15 to 20 days from the date of the request.

If the landlord is successful at trial, the court will enter a Judgment and the landlord can then obtain a Writ of Possession. The Writ of Possession must be provided to the county sheriff who will serve it on the tenant and schedule a lock out date. It typically takes the sheriff 3 to 15 days to post the notice and the notice provides the tenant with 5 days to vacate the premises. On the day of the lock-out, the landlord should meet the sheriff at the premises with a locksmith to change the locks on the property.


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