California Eviction Laws

Landlords should familiarize themselves with the statewide rules and procedures that govern evictions in the state of California and understand their responsibilities.

Quick Facts for California

  • Grounds for Eviction: Failure to pay rent, violation of lease agreement, or committing a crime in-property
  • Notice Required for Nonpayment of Rent: 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent
  • Notice Required to Terminate without Cause: 30-Day Notice to Quit for month-to-month tenants, 60 for tenancy beyond 12 months
  • Notice Required for Lease Violations: 3-Day Notice to Cure
  • Fastest a Landlord Can Evict for Illegal Acts: 3 days, via Unconditional Quit Notice

How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant in California?

As in most states, the state of California requires that a landlord legally terminate the lease/rental agreement prior to filing for eviction. This means that the landlord must provide the tenant with written notification of issues in violation of the lease/rental agreement and offer a specific amount of time in which to correct issues.

Although the reason for which a landlord seeks eviction may vary, the state of California maintains a standard three-day response time requirement for Notification of rental issues.

If the tenant remains at the rental property after the three days indicated in the notice, without paying the rent or correcting the cause for the lease violation, the landlord may continue to move toward eviction. In the state of California, the landlord’s next step is to file a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer. Once the Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer is filed with the court, the tenant must respond or the court will rule for the landlord.

Since eviction is a court process in the state of California, there is no simple answer to the question regarding the length of time an eviction takes. The length of time the process takes depends largely upon the tenant’s willingness to go to court to fight the eviction.

Reasons for Eviction in California

In the state of California, a landlord may seek eviction for:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Violation of lease/rental agreement
  • Commitment of an illegal act on the rental property

Eviction for Failure to Pay Rent

A landlord is required to present his tenant with a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent in the state of California. If the tenant fails to pay the rent in the specified time, the landlord may proceed with eviction proceedings by going to the court and filing a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer.

Eviction if Rent has Been Paid

So long as there is an active lease/rental agreement, a landlord may not evict a tenant without cause if the rent has been paid by the end of a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent. If the tenant is a month-to-month tenant, the landlord may evict the tenant if he/she fails to leave the property after the appropriate notice has been submitted and the appropriate length of time has passed, even if there is no reason for the eviction. In this case it is sufficient that the landlord has decided to discontinue renting to the tenant and provided the legal notice of his intention to discontinue the rental relationship. If the tenant remains beyond the time indicated in the notice, the landlord may proceed by filing a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer.

Evicting a Tenant For Violation of Rental Agreement/Lease

If a tenant violates the lease or rental agreement, the state of California requires the landlord to provide the tenant with a written 3-Day Notice to Cure. If the tenant fails to rectify the issue with the landlord within the three days allowed, the landlord may proceed by filing a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer.

Evicting a Tenant for Serious Violations without Recourse to Cure

In the state of California, a landlord may send a tenant a 3-Day Unconditional Quit Notice if there has been a serious violation of the lease or rental agreement. A landlord may use a 3-Day Unconditional Quit Notice when:

  • The tenant has committed an illegal act on the rental property
  • The tenant has created or permitted others to create a nuisance at the rental property
  • The tenant has caused a substantial amount of damage to the rental property
  • The tenant has sublet the property in violation of the lease or rental agreement

If the tenant remains on the property beyond the three days allowed, the landlord may continue with eviction proceedings by filing a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer with the court.

How Does a Landlord Evict a Tenant When There is no Lease?

When there is no active lease or written rental agreement between the landlord and tenant, a landlord in the state of California may cease rental to a month-to-month tenant by providing the appropriate Notice to end the tenancy. The amount of time required to legally end a month-to-month tenancy depends upon the amount of time the tenant has been renting the property.  A month-to-month tenant must be given a written 30-Day Notice to end the tenancy if he/she has been renting the property for up to 12 months. Once a tenant has rented a property for more than a year, the landlord must provide a written 60-Day Notice to end the tenancy. Once the end date of the notice has been met, the landlord may proceed with eviction proceedings if the tenant has failed to move out. At this point the landlord may go to court and file a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer.

When Can a Tenant Not Be Evicted in California?

The state of California requires that landlords maintain their property to a set of standards. If the landlord fails to meet these standards, the tenant may legally withhold rent. In such a case, the tenant may not be evicted for failure to pay rent. It is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant as an act of discrimination. Tenants may not be evicted for:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Place of origin,
  • Familial or marital status
  • Disability or medical health issues
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender expression
  • Age

Tenants may not be evicted in retaliation for reporting unsafe or illegal living conditions or for joining tenants groups or unions.

Once a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer is Filed

Once a Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer has been filed, the tenant has five days to respond to the action. If the tenant fails to respond, the landlord can proceed by requesting a default judgment. Once a judgement is made in favor of the landlord, the landlord can obtain a Writ of Possession. This writ gives the landlord the ability to have the sheriff remove the tenant from the rental property.

If a tenant responds to the Summons and Complaint for Unlawful Detainer, the court is required to schedule a trial within 20 days. Although the tenant can request a trial by jury, many cases are settled by a judge. This is due to the cost of a jury trial. In order to obtain a jury trial, the tenant is required to make a deposit for jury fees.

NOTE

At hearing, the burden of proof is placed on the landlord. Both sides are allowed to speak and provide evidence.

Once Eviction Occurs

If judgment is made in favor of the landlord, a Writ of Possession will be given to the landlord. This writ allows the landlord to have the tenant removed by a sheriff if they have remained on the property after five days from the date of the court ruling. The sheriff has three days to serve the writ.

In very rare cases, the tenant may receive Relief From Forfeiture from the court. This option only occurs when the judge is convinced that the tenant should be allowed to remain on the property. To be rewarded Relief From Forfeiture, the tenant is required to show that he/she is experiencing severe hardship and that rent can be paid by a specific time.

Even if the tenant loses the court case, he/she may file for a Stay of Eviction. A Stay of Eviction must be filed in writing with the court and served to the landlord within 24 hours of request. If the court accepts the stay, the tenant will be required to pay rent for each day of the stay. The court may allow the tenant to remain on the property no more than 40 days.

Any personal belongings the tenant leaves behind after an eviction must be retained and stored by the landlord for 18 days. At the end of the 18 days the landlord is allowed to dispose of any remaining unclaimed belongings.

Make sure to read the Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. §§ 1161, 19461946.1 & 1980-1991 before starting the eviction process. Landlords should make sure to educate themselves on their rights and responsibilities on this topic.

Eviction Process in Other States

Other Resources for California Landlords & Tenants