Steps of the eviction process in California:
- Landlord serves tenant written notice.
- Landlord files complaint with court (if unresolved).
- Court serves tenant with summons & complaint.
- Answer is filed.
- Court holds hearing and issues judgment.
- Writ of possession is issued.
- Constable returns possession of property to landlord.
Evicting a tenant in California can take around five to eight weeks, depending on the type of eviction. If tenants request a continuance or jury trial, the process can take longer.
Grounds for an Eviction in California
In California, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal grounds to evict include not paying rent on time, staying after the lease ends, violating lease terms or not upholding responsibilities under California law. Even so, proper notice must first be given before ending the tenancy.
|Nonpayment of Rent||3 Days||Yes|
|End of / No Lease||30/60 Days||No|
|Lease Violation||3 Days||Maybe|
|Illegal Activity||3 Days||No|
Evictions for Nonpayment of Rent
In California, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. To do so, they must first give 3 days’ notice to pay or vacate. If the tenant does neither after that time, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
Unless the lease states otherwise, rent is due at the beginning of each pay period and is considered late immediately after its due date. So for example, if rent is due on the first of the month, it is considered late starting on the second of the month (if not paid in full). There is no right to a legal grace period (i.e., five days); however, weekends and legal holidays are excluded.
Eviction for No Lease / End of Lease
In California, a landlord can evict a tenant without a lease or with a lease that has ended (known as a “holdover tenant” or “tenant at will”). To do so, they must first terminate the tenancy by giving proper notice to move out.
The landlord can provide month-to-month tenants who have lived at the rental unit for less than 1 year a 30 days’ notice to vacate and for month-to-month tenants who have lived at the rental unit for 1 year or more a 60 days’ notice to vacate.
However, no prior notice is needed in the following situations:
- Expired fixed-term leases.
- If the rental unit is part of a job package, and the tenant loses the job or quits.
- No lease agreement.
Where no notice is needed, a landlord may file an eviction action directly with the court without giving a tenant written notice beforehand.
In the state of California, landlords in rent-controlled cities are not allowed to terminate a tenancy without cause; therefore, cannot evict tenants because the rental period has ended.
If the tenant remains on the property after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Eviction for Violation of Lease or Responsibilities
In California, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of their lease or not upholding their responsibilities under California landlord-tenant law. Some violations allow the tenant to fix (“cure”) the issue to avoid removal and other violations do not allow the tenant to fix the issue (“incurable”) and must vacate immediately.
If the issue is curable the landlord must give 3 days’ notice to cure or vacate and if the issue is incurable the landlord must give a 3 days’ notice to vacate without the chance to fix the issue.
Tenant responsibilities include:
- Keeping the premises clean and sanitary.
- Disposing all rubbish, garbage and other waste in a clean and safe manner.
- Properly using all electrical, gas, and plumbing fixtures in a clean and sanitary manner.
- Not permitting any person on the premises to willfully destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises.
For more minor offenses, the tenant is given an opportunity to fix (“cure”) the issue and shall be given 3 days’ notice to cure or vacate.
Examples of curable violations include:
- Having unauthorized pets.
- Not maintaining the unit in a clean and habitable manner.
- Not keeping the fixtures clean and sanitary.
- Using the rental unit for purposes other than living, sleeping, cooking or dinner.
For more serious violations, the tenant isn’t given the opportunity to fix the issue and shall be given 3 days’ notice to vacate.
Examples of incurable violations include:
- Excessive property damage.
- Non-criminal nuisances.
- Subletting without the landlord’s approval.
Eviction for Illegal Activity
In California, a tenant can be evicted if they commit an illegal activity. Tenants who are involved in illegal activity can be given a 3 days’ notice to vacate, without the opportunity to fix the issue.
Examples of illegal activity includes:
- Criminal threats.
- Criminal activity.
- Unlawful business activity (i.e., prostitution, using the rental unit as a business if that’s prohibited in the lease, etc.).
- Criminal nuisances.
- Illegal firearm activity.
- Illegal drug activity.
- Dogfighting or cockfighting.
If the tenant remains on the premises after the notice period expires, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
Illegal Evictions in California
In California, any of the below is illegal. If found liable, landlords can pay the tenant actual damages sustained, punitive damages in an amount not less than $100 or no more than $2,000 for each retaliatory act, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
No matter the situation, a landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:
- Changing the locks.
- Shutting off utilities.
- Removing tenant belongings.
A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.
It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right.
These rights include:
- Complaining to the landlord about an issue with the property.
- Complaining to the landlord about a bed bug issue.
- Contacting a local or government agency about an issue with the property.
- Joining, supporting or organizing a tenant union or organization.
- Pursuing a legal action.
- Withholding rent for uninhabitable rental units.
Retaliation is when the landlord does any of the above actions within 180 days of when the tenant has exercised their legal right.
Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant
A landlord can begin the eviction process in California by serving the tenant with written notice. The notice must be delivered by one of the following methods:
- Hand delivering the notice to the tenant.
- Mailing a copy of the notice via regular mail or certified mail.
- Leaving the notice in a conspicuous place (i.e., on the front door).
- Leaving a copy at the tenant’s residence with a competent adult.
- Posting a copy in a conspicuous place at the rental unit and mailing a copy to the tenant.
It is important for a landlord to always maintain a copy of the signed and served notice as proof of proper service of notice.
3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
If a tenant is late on paying rent (full or partial) in California, the landlord can serve them a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This notice gives the tenant 3 judicial days (not including weekends and legal holidays) to pay the entire remaining balance or vacate the premises.
30-Day Notice to Quit
For a tenant with no lease or a month-to-month lease in California who has resided at the property less than 1 year, the landlord must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This eviction notice allows the tenant 30 calendar days to move out.
60-Day Notice to Quit
For a tenant with no lease or a month-to-month lease in California who has resided at the property 1 year or more, the landlord must serve them a 60-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This eviction notice allows the tenant 60 calendar days to move out.
3-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate
In California, if a tenant commits a minor violation of the terms of their lease or legal responsibilities as a tenant, the landlord can serve them a 3-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This eviction notice gives the tenant 3 calendar days to fix the issue or move out.
3-Day Notice to Quit
In California, if a tenant commits a serious violation of the terms of their lease or legal responsibilities as a tenant, the landlord can serve them a 3-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice gives the tenant 3 calendar days to move out without the chance to fix the issue.
Step 2: Landlord Files Lawsuit with Court
If the notice period ends and the tenant remains on the property, the next step in the eviction process requires the landlord to file a Complaint (also known as an Unlawful Detainer) and Summons with the Superior Court of the applicable county in California. In most counties, this costs between $240 and $435 in filing fees.
The complaint should include the following information:
- Landlord and tenant contact information.
- The county where the property is located.
- The rental property address.
- The type of tenancy (i.e., monthly, etc.).
- The type of lease agreement (i.e., written, oral, etc.).
- If the tenancy is subject to the Tenant Protection Act of 2019.
- The grounds for eviction (i.e., nonpayment of rent, lease violation, etc.).
- The type of notice that was served, the date of service, and the method of delivery service.
- The landlord’s demand requests (i.e., possession, rent due, attorney’s fees, damages, etc.).
- If the tenancy is subject to rent control.
Additionally, if applicable, the following documents should be attached to the complaint for the court’s records:
- A copy of the lease or rental agreement (if there is one) and any written changes the tenant agreed to.
- A copy of the eviction notice.
- A copy of written proof that notice was given (i.e., return receipt for mailer, etc.).
Some courts in California have additional local forms to complete, so please check with the court clerk’s office for any additional requirements.
Step 3: Court Serves Tenant with Summons & Complaint
The Summons and Complaint can be served on the tenant by anyone who is at least 18 years old and not part of the case (i.e., marshal, sheriff, registered process server, etc.). The landlord must have the tenant served within 60 days of filing the Complaint, or the case could be dismissed by the court. The individual who serves the tenant must complete a Proof of Service of Summons form which must be filed with the Court Clerk.
The Summons and Complaint may be served by one of the following methods:
- Giving a copy of the Summons and Complaint to the tenant person;
- Leaving a copy of the Summons and Complaint with the person in charge during normal business hours at the tenant’s place of work and mailing a copy of the summons and complaint by first-class mail; or
- Posting a copy of the Summons and Complaint in a conspicuous place on the rental unit.
If the summons and complaint are left with someone other than the tenant, or posted on the rental property, then a copy must also be mailed to the tenant for service to be considered “complete.”
Once the Summons and Complaint have been served, the tenant has a chance to respond.
Within 60 Days. The eviction action could be dismissed if the landlord doesn’t serve tenant within 60 days of filing the Complaint.
Step 4: Answer is Filed
In California, tenants are not required to file a formal, written answer to an eviction complaint. If the tenant chooses to fight and challenge the eviction, the process can take much longer and can include a number of additional steps (i.e., the judge might order for both parties to appear at a hearing).
The answer must be filed within five business days and an additional ten days are given for delivery by mail.
To challenge the eviction the tenant should be prepared to write down the reasons why he or she shouldn’t be forced to move out. The answers should be given both the Court Clerk and the landlord.
After the appropriate time has expired, the landlord then has three options:
- If the tenant failed to respond, the landlord can ask for a default judgment without having to go to a court hearing, which could take a few days to a few weeks, depending on the judicial officer’s schedule.
- If the tenant failed to respond, the landlord can get an immediate order of possession from the clerk of court’s office. It is important to note that this can only be done if the landlord is not asking for back rent/other monies owed.
- If the tenant did respond, the landlord must file a request for a hearing, asking the court to set a hearing date for the eviction.
Both the default judgment and the order of possession bypass the hearing; therefore, the tenant will not have the opportunity to present their case for why they should be allowed to remain in the rental unit.
5-15 Days, depending how the tenant was served with the summons and complaint.
Step 5: Court Holds Hearing & Issues Judgment
Once the landlord files a request for hearing, the eviction hearing will be scheduled within 20 days of the date the request was filed.
To prepare for the hearing the landlord and tenant should bring the following:
- A copy of the lease agreement.
- A copy of the notice to quit or to pay.
- The complaint.
- Any evidence (i.e., photos of damage, receipts, billing statements, etc.) or witnesses to help prove the case in court.
The landlord or tenant could possibly request an extension. The decision is granted or denied by the judicial officer.
Regardless if the eviction was contested or not, if the judge rules in favor of the landlord, a Writ of Execution will be subsequently issued and the process will proceed.
In California, filing an appeal will not stop the eviction. The only way a tenant can stop an eviction is to request a Stay of Execution after receiving the Writ of Execution in accordance with Step 6 below.
Approximately 20 Days. The hearing will be scheduled for a date within 20 days of the date the request for hearing was filed by the landlord.
Step 6: Writ of Execution Is Issued
The Writ of Execution is the tenant’s final notice to leave the premises and allows the tenant the opportunity to remove their belongings before the sheriff returns to the property to forcibly remove the tenant. The filing fee is around $40 to issue a Writ of Execution.
If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, the landlord will ask the court to issue a Writ of Execution and shall be issued at the hearing.
A Few Hours to a Few Days. The landlord must request the writ of execution, but it can be issued the same day as the hearing.
Step 7: Possession of Property is Returned
Tenants have five days to move out once they have been served with a copy of the Writ of Execution. If a tenant does not move out within that period, the sheriff will return and forcibly remove them.
It’s possible for tenants to request a stay of execution, which would delay the eviction for an additional 40 days. If granted by the court, this will only put off the eviction, not prevent it, and the tenant will still need to move out after the 40 days has ended.
5 Days. The tenant has five days to move out of the rental unit after being served with the writ of execution. This process can be delayed by up to 40 additional days if a stay is requested.
To file an eviction lawsuit with the court, there are filing fees that need to be paid and vary in each county, please check with your local court to verify the filing fee. Typically, in California, court fees depend on the amount the landlord is suing for. Below are the general filing fee costs:
|The Amount the Landlord is Suing for||The Average Cost of Filing Fees|
|Suing Less Than $10,000||$240|
|Suing Between $10,000 to $25,000||$385|
|Suing Between Over $25,000||$435|
It is important to note that San Bernardino, San Francisco and Riverside counties have higher filing fees.
California Eviction Process Timeline
In California, an eviction can be completed in 5 to 8 weeks but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.
Below are the parts of the California eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.
|Initial Notice Period||3-90 Calendar Days|
|Court Issuing/Serving Summons||60 Business Days|
|Tenant Response Period||5-15 Business Days|
|Court Ruling||~20 Business Days|
|Court Serving Writ of Possession||1-3 Business Days|
|Final Notice Period||5-40 Calendar Days|
Flowchart of California Eviction Process
For additional questions about the eviction process in California, please refer to the official state legislation, California Civil Code §§1940-1954 and 3479-3486.5 and the California Code of Civil Procedure, §415.10,715, and 1159-1179a,for more information.
- 1 CA Code of Civ Proc §1161 (2019)
- 2 CA Civ Code §1946.1 (2019)
- 3 CA Code of Civ Proc §1161 (2019)
- 4 CA Code of Civ Proc §1161b (2019)
- 5 CA Code of Civ Proc §1161 (2019)
- 6 CA Code of Civ Proc §1161 (2019)
- 7 CA Civ Code §3485 (2019)
- 8 CA Civ Code §3486(2019)
- 9 CA Civ Code §3482.8 (2019)
- 10 CA Civ Code § 1942.5 (2019)
- 11 CA Civ Code § 1942.5 (2021)
- 12 CA Code of Civ Proc §1167.1 (2019)
- 13 CA Code of Civ Proc §415.10 (2019)
- 14 CA Code of Civ Proc §415.20 (2019)
- 15 CA Code of Civ Proc §415.45 (2019)
- 16 CA Code of Civ Proc §1167 (2019)
- 17 CA Code of Civ Proc §415.20 (2019)
- 18 CA Code of Civ Proc §1170.5 (2019)
- 19 CA Code of Civ Proc §715.10 (2019)