The Basics of Eviction in California

Primary Reasons a Landlord Can Evict a Tenant in California

In California, evictions are primarily dictated by Section 1161 of the California

Code of Civil Procedure. Under said code, there are essentially six different situations that allow for a landlord to evict a tenant because said tenant is guilty of “unlawful detainer.” Unlawful detainer is a legal term to used to describe the situation in which a tenant is possessing a property with a legal right to do so. Section 1161 describes how, and under what circumstances, a landlord may terminate a tenancy. Once a tenancy is properly terminated under the requirements of this code, a landlord may commence a lawsuit to evict their tenant.

The following are the basic reasons for which a landlord can evict a tenant or occupant in California:

  1. The tenant is in possession of the rental property beyond the date of termination of their fixed term lease.
  2. The tenant was in possession of the rental property as a benefit of his or her employment by the landlord, and that employment has since been terminated.
  3. The tenant is a tenant at will, meaning they do not have a lease agreement with the landlord.
  4. The tenant is a month to month tenant, and their tenancy has been properly terminated by service of the proper notice.
  5. The tenant is not paying their rent.
  6. The tenant has breached their lease agreement with the landlord.
  7. The tenant is committing waste, or destroying the rental property.
  8. The tenant is acting as a nuisance, meaning their behavior is interfering with the quiet use and enjoyment of their neighbors as to the property or neighborhood.
  9. The tenant is using the property for an unlawful purpose.
  10. The tenant gave written notice to the landlord that they will be vacating, but failed to vacate the rental property.
  11. The property in which the occupant lives has been foreclosed upon and the occupant has failed to vacate.

The Complex Notice Requirements Surrounding California Evictions

        In California, a landlord seeking to evict for any of the above reasons must comply with highly technical notice requirements, which often vary from city to city based on local laws. Failure to strictly comply with such requirements will result in the landlord’s case being dismissed and will cause the landlord to serve a new notice and begin their case again. It for this reason that, if you are seeking to evict your tenant, we strongly recommend that you call our offices so that we can assist you with the process.

To summarize the basic types of notices required to be served, based on the type of eviction proceeding you seek to initiate, please see the chart below. Please be aware that chart below serves only as a basic guide. The notice requirements below can be, and often are, modified by rent control statutes and local ordinances. As such, although their basis is dictated by state law, they can vary greatly depending on jurisdiction.

Type of Eviction Type of Notice Required
Lease Expiration No Notice Required
Termination of Employment No Notice Required
Tenant at Will 30 Day Notice to Quit
Termination of Month to Month Tenancy (<1 yr.) 30 Day Notice to Quit
Termination of Month to Month Tenancy (>1 yr.) 60 Day Notice to Quit
Non-Payment of Rent 3 Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
Breach of Lease Agreement 3 Day Notice to Perform or Quit
Tenant is Committing Waste 3 Day Notice to Quit
Tenant is Committing Nuisance 3 Day Notice to Quit
Tenant is Using the Property Unlawfully 3 Day Notice to Quit
Tenant’s Failure to Vacate After Giving Notice No Notice Required
Prior Owner Fails to Vacate After Sale/Foreclosure 3 Day Notice to Quit
Tenant Fails to Vacate After Sale/Foreclosure 90 Day Notice to Quit

A Brief Overview of the California Eviction Process

After the proper notice is served, if the tenant fails to perform as required then the landlord may file an unlawful detainer lawsuit.

If the tenant fails to respond to the lawsuit, then default judgment may be entered without a trial and a writ of possession may be issued. Once a writ of possession is issued, a lockout can be scheduled with the Sheriff’s office in order to remove the tenant from the rental property.

If the tenant does respond to the lawsuit, then a trial must be held to determine the merits of the case. Often, such trials are preceded by discovery and hearings on various motions such as demurrers, motions to quash, motions for summary judgment, and more. If and only if the landlord can overcome such motions, then the case will go to trial.

In California, tenants are entitled to a trial by jury if they request it in a timely manner and pay the necessary fees. If they cannot afford to pay the fees, then the court will waive them upon timely application for a waiver. If the tenant fails to demand a jury trial, then the case will be resolved by a bench trial and the judge will determine the outcome of the proceedings.

If the landlord succeeds at trial, a writ of possession is issued, a lockout is scheduled, and the tenant is removed from the rental property.

The above is a simplification of a process that is both highly technical and extremely complex. If you need to evict your tenant, we recommend contacting our offices and speaking to an attorney. Doing so is likely to save you both time and money.

*****The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. If you seek to pursue an eviction, please call our offices. We will be happy to provide legal advice and to assist you with the eviction process in any way that we can.

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