Read further to learn more about the eviction process in California and how many days’ notice are required in which situations.
What’s an Eviction Notice?
An eviction notice is a legal form of disclosure that lets a tenant know that they are in clear violation of their lease agreement, and either need to correct the issue or vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to take action after proper legal notice is given, the landlord may evict the tenant. When a landlord provides written legal notice to a tenant to correct a violation of the lease agreement, it is referred to as a “Notice to Quit.” The terms of the Notice to Quit will vary depending on the situation. While many tenants will choose to move out of the unit after receiving a Notice to Quit, sometimes further action is required. The following information outlines the specific steps a landlord must take to formally evict a tenant from their rental property, from delivering a Notice to Quit to obtaining a Writ of Possession. You will also find detailed instructions on creating an eviction notice specific to the state of California.
Evicting a Tenant in California
In any state, it is essential for a landlord to follow a specific series of steps to evict a tenant from a rental property. Adhering to these steps carefully will ensure that the eviction process is performed legally and without negative repercussions for the landlord. If it is necessary to evict a tenant in the state of California, the following step-by-step process may serve as a basic framework for a landlord to follow, with assistance from their legal team:
- Document a valid reason for evicting the tenant. A valid reason is generally defined as a clear breach of the lease agreement. Some examples of valid reasons for evicting a tenant from a property may include:
- Nonpayment of rent.
- Failure to vacate the premises following the agreed-upon termination date of the lease agreement.
- Causing significant disruption to other tenants or the general public.
- Incurring significant damage to the property.
- Using the property for illegal activity.
- Other breaches clearly specified in the lease agreement.
- Serve the tenant with a Notice to Quit. It is critical to ensure that the notice is received by the tenant to allow that person the opportunity to respond appropriately. There are four accepted ways to deliver a Notice to Quit to a tenant:
- Hand the notice directly to the tenant.
- Leave the notice with an adult at the property, then mail a copy directly to the tenant.
- Leave the notice with an adult at the tenant’s place of employment, then mail a copy directly to the tenant.
- Leave a copy of the notice on the tenant’s door, then mail a copy directly to the tenant.
In the state of California, there are five different Notice to Quit forms available, depending on the situation. It is important to select the correct Notice to Quit prior to serving the tenant:
- Three-day Notice to Quit due to nonpayment of rent: This form is used when the tenant has not paid rent on the specified due date according to the signed lease agreement.
- Three-day Notice to Quit due to curable non-compliance: This form is used for violations of the lease agreement, other than nonpayment of rent, that the tenant may be able to remedy.
- Three-day Notice to Quit due to incurable non-compliance: This form is used when the landlord wants the tenant to vacate the premises due to an issue that the tenant cannot fix.
- 30-day Notice to Quit for month-to-month leases less than one year: In this situation, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-day notice to move out of the unit for any reason.
- 60-day Notice to Quit for month-to-month leases over one year: In this situation, the landlord must give the tenant a 60-day notice to move out of the unit for any reason.
- File an Unlawful Detainer Action. If the tenant does not take action within the time period specified on the Notice to Quit, the landlord may file an Unlawful Detainer Action with the court in the county where the property is located. The landlord must complete a formal written complaint, cover sheet and summons, in addition to submitting a filing fee that may vary depending on the circumstances.
- Serve the tenant and await their response. The written complaint, cover sheet and summons must be given to the tenant by a civil process server. Upon delivery of these documents, the civil process server will complete a Proof of Service form with the local county court. The tenant is allowed five days to respond to an Unlawful Detainer Action if served in person. If the documentation was mailed, the tenant is allowed 15 days from the date mailed to respond.
- Request a default judgement. If the tenant does not respond to an Unlawful Detainer Action in the required time frame, the landlord may ask the county court for a default judgement to authorize eviction. In order to apply for a default judgement, the landlord must file the following paperwork with the county court:
- Request for Entry and Default Judgement.
- Judgement for Unlawful Detainer.
- Writ of Possession.
- Take the Writ of Possession to the sheriff’s office. If the tenant did not respond to the summons in the required time frame and the request for a default judgement is granted, the landlord will receive a Writ of Possession to deliver to the local sheriff. The local sheriff will evict the tenant on behalf of the landlord.
- Attempt to return the tenant’s possessions. If a tenant leaves belongings behind during the eviction process, the landlord must store the items for two weeks while attempting to return them. If the items are not claimed after the two-week time frame, the landlord may get rid of the items in an appropriate manner.
If a landlord determines that it is necessary to evict a tenant for a valid reason, it is important to follow the eviction process carefully according to the laws in their state. Omitting even a small detail from the process can result in negative consequences for the landlord. These negative consequences may include needing to restart the eviction process, hefty fines or a lawsuit by the tenant.
How to Write an Eviction Notice Letter in California
An eviction notice letter must use direct and concise language to avoid confusion. The letter should be clear enough to be read and understood by an uninvolved party. Using a template can assist in creating an eviction notice letter that includes all necessary components in an easy-to-understand format.
Prior to drafting an eviction notice letter, ensure that a copy of the original lease signed by the landlord and tenant is readily available for reference. The information contained on the eviction notice letter needs to match the lease agreement in order to be legally compliant.
An eviction notice letter must include the following information in the state of California:
- Tenant’s full name, as stated on the original lease agreement.
- Address of the property in question, as stated on the original lease agreement.
- Date that the original lease agreement was signed, including the month, day and year.
- Date that the notice was delivered to the tenant, including the month, day and year.
- Description of the lease violation and the necessary response to the violation, if applicable. The landlord can select from the following three lease violations and remedies:
- Nonpayment of rent.
- Clearly state the specific amount due, including original due date(s).
- Provide instructions for remitting payment, including the full legal names of anyone who may accept payment on the landlord’s behalf.
- Provide a three-day window for the tenant to remit payment or vacate the premises.
- Illegal activity.
- Provide a description of the illegal activity committed.
- Clearly state that the tenant must vacate the premises within three days or face forced eviction.
- Other violations of the lease agreement, including nuisance behavior or property damage.
- Describe the specific actions needed to remedy the situation within three days.
- Clearly state that if these actions are not performed within the three-day time frame, the tenant must vacate the unit or face forced eviction.
- Nonpayment of rent.
- Month-to-month tenancy eviction specifications, if applicable.
- If a month-to-month lease agreement has been in effect for less than one year, then either the tenant or the landlord may terminate the lease for any reason with 30 days notice given.
- If a month-to-month lease agreement has been in effect for more than one year, then either the tenant or the landlord may terminate the lease for any reason with 60 days notice given.
- Landlord signature.
- Certificate of delivery, stating the date the eviction notice was delivered, the person that accepted the notice, the method of delivery and the delivery agent’s signature. The three options for the method of delivery are as follows:
- The eviction notice was handed directly to the tenant.
- The eviction notice was handed to an adult at the residence or the tenant’s workplace, with instructions to deliver the notice to the tenant.
- The eviction notice was mailed to the tenant.
Many landlords prefer to use an eviction notice form, with fields in place to address all components of an eviction notice. Using a specific form that has been reviewed by the landlord’s legal team can make the unpleasant task of evicting a tenant proceed smoothly and without legal error.
Evicting a tenant in California can be a time consuming and complex process. California is known for its strict regulations in the case of residential evictions. It is critical for the landlord to adhere to the eviction process carefully to avoid delay or costly fees. California law lists several unique points regarding evictions that a landlord must understand in order to remain compliant during the process:
- Self-help eviction is not permitted. Self-help evictions are illegal in many states across the country, including California. Self-help eviction occurs when a landlord skips the legal process and attempts to evict a tenant on their own. Self-help eviction can take on the following forms:
- Changing the locks on the unit.
- Cancelling utilities.
- Removing the tenant’s belongings from the property.
- Verbal or physical threats.
- A lawsuit is the only way to legally evict a tenant in the state of California. When a landlord needs to evict a tenant, they often want to complete the process as quickly as possible. Skipping steps during eviction will likely result in a longer process.
- The eviction process may take anywhere from 45 to 75 days. The court case for an eviction in California begins upon expiration of the Notice to Quit. An uncontested eviction may take as little as 45 days, while a contested eviction may take a minimum of 75 days to complete. Many tenants vacate the premises voluntarily upon receiving a Notice to Quit, eliminating the need for a court case.
- A Notice to Quit is essential in California. The landlord is required to serve the tenant with a Notice to Quit and await expiration prior to beginning court proceedings.
- Certain situations may require additional legal guidance. It is wise to seek the advice of a lawyer in the following unique situations:
- If the tenant is employed by the landlord and resides on the property.
- If the property in question is a residential hotel.
- If the property in question is located in a mobile home or RV park.
- If there is a foreclosure on the rental property.
- A landlord must continue to observe a tenant’s right to privacy throughout the eviction process. In the state of California, a landlord must give a tenant 24 hours notice prior to entering a rental unit, except in the case of an emergency. If a landlord does not observe this regulation, it may be considered a self-help eviction. This may give grounds for the tenant to contest the eviction and delay the process.
A tenant is entitled to monetary damages from an illegal eviction. If a landlord is found to have illegally evicted a tenant in the state of California, the tenant may be entitled to their out-of-pocket costs. In addition, the landlord may need to pay punitive damages of up to $100.00 per day, but no less than $250.00 per incident.