Before the California Eviction Hearing
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Part 3  -

     Before appearing in California Eviction court, you must carefully prepare your case, just as an California attorney would. Among other things, you should:

  • Talk with a housing clinic, tenant organization, attorney, or legal aid organization. This will help you understand the legal issues in your case and the evidence that you will need.

  • Decide how you will present the facts that support your side of the case -whether by witnesses, letters, other documents, photographs or video, or other evidence.

  • Have at least four copies of all documents that you intend to use as evidence - an original for the judge, a copy for the opposing party, a copy for yourself, and copies for your witnesses.

  • Ask witnesses to testify at the trial, if they will help your case. You can subpoena a witness who will not testify voluntarily. A subpoena is an order from the court for a witness to appear. The subpoena must be served on (handed to) the witness, and can be served by anyone but you who is over the age of 18. You can obtain a subpoena from the Clerk of Court. You must pay witness fees at the time the subpoena is served on the witness, if the witness requests them.

     The parties to an unlawful detainer lawsuit have the right to a jury trial, and either party can request one. After you have filed your answer to the landlord's complaint, the court will send you a document called a Memorandum to Set Case for Trial (called an "At-Issue Memorandum" or a "Memo to Set" in some counties). 

This document will indicate whether the plaintiff (landlord) has requested a jury trial. If not, and if you are not represented by a lawyer, tenant advisers usually recommend that you not request a jury trial.
There are several good reasons for this recommendation: first, presenting a case to a jury is more complex than presenting a case to a judge, and a non-lawyer representing himself or herself may find it very difficult; second, the party requesting a jury trial will be responsible for depositing the initial cost of jury fees with the court; and third, the losing party will have to pay all of the jury costs.

After the court's decision

     If the court decides in favor of the tenant, the tenant will not have to move, and the landlord may be ordered to pay the tenant's court costs (for example, filing fees) and the tenant's attorney's fees. However, the tenant will have to pay any rent that the court orders.

     If the landlord wins, the tenant will have to move. In addition, the court may order the tenant to pay the landlord's court costs and attorney's fees, and any proven damages, such as overdue rent or the cost of repairs if the tenant damaged the premises.

It is possible, but rare, for a losing tenant to convince the court to allow the tenant to remain in the rental unit. 
This is called relief from forfeiture of the tenancy. The tenant must convince the court of two things in order to obtain relief from forfeiture: that the eviction would cause the tenant severe hardship, and that the tenant is able to pay all of the rent that is due or that the tenant will fully comply with the lease or rental agreement.

 A tenant can obtain relief from forfeiture of a lease or a rental agreement, even if the tenancy has terminated (ended), so long as possession of the unit has not been turned over to the landlord. A tenant seeking relief from forfeiture (or the tenant's attorney) must apply for relief immediately after the court issues its judgment in the unlawful detainer lawsuit.

A tenant who loses an unlawful detainer lawsuit may appeal the judgment if the tenant believes that the judge mistakenly decided a legal issue in the case. However, the tenant will have to move before the appeal is heard, unless the tenant obtains a stay of enforcement of the judgment or relief from forfeiture (described immediately above). The court will not grant the tenant's request for a stay of enforcement unless the court finds that the tenant or the tenant's family will suffer extreme hardship, and that the landlord will not suffer irreparable harm. If the court grants the request for a stay of enforcement, it will order the tenant to make rent payments to the court in the amount ordered by the court.

A landlord who loses an unlawful detainer lawsuit also may appeal the judgment.

Disclaimer: Eviction Laws in your state may change and there may be times when information on this web site may not be current. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. This website is not a substitute for advice from an attorney. ADDITIONAL LAWS MAY APPLY IN YOUR JURISDICTION. FIND EVICTION LAWYERS IN YOUR STATE

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