Evicting California Tenants
California Evictions

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The CALIFORNIA EVICTION PROCESS
Part 1 - 
Overview of the California Eviction process

If the tenant doesn't voluntarily move out after the landlord has properly given the required notice, the landlord may begin the eviction process. To evict the tenant, the landlord must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in the California Superior Court.

In an eviction lawsuit, the landlord is called the "plaintiff" and the tenant is called the "defendant."

If the landlord uses unlawful methods to evict a tenant, the landlord may be subject to liability for the tenant's damages, as well as penalties of up to $100 per day for the time that the landlord used the unlawful methods.

If the court decides in favor of the landlord , the court will issue a writ of possession. The writ of possession orders the sheriff to remove the tenant from the rental unit, but gives the tenant five days from the date that the writ is served to leave voluntarily. If the tenant does not leave by the end of the fifth day, the writ of possession authorizes the sheriff to physically remove and lock the tenant out, and seize (take) the tenant's belongings that have been left in the rental unit. The landlord is not entitled to possession of the rental unit until after the sheriff has removed the tenant.  The landlord should just stay during this period.

In an unlawful detainer lawsuit, the court holds a hearing at which the parties can present their evidence and explain their case. If the court finds that the tenant has a good defense, the court will not evict the tenant. If the court decides in favor of the tenant, the tenant will not have to move, and the landlord may be ordered to pay court costs (for example, the tenant's filing fees). The landlord also may have to pay the tenant's attorney's fees, if the rental agreement contains an attorney's fee clause and if the tenant was represented by an attorney. 

An unlawful detainer lawsuit is a "summary" court procedure. This means that the court action moves forward very quickly, and that the time given the tenant to respond during the lawsuit is very short. For example, in most cases, the tenant has only five days to file a written response to the lawsuit after being served with a copy of the landlord's complaint. Normally, a judge will hear and decide the case within 20 days after the tenant files an answer.

The court-administered eviction process assures the tenant of the right to a court hearing if the tenant believes that the landlord has no right to evict the tenant. The landlord must use this court process to evict the tenant; the landlord cannot use self-help measures to force the tenant to move. For example, the landlord cannot physically remove or lock out the tenant, cut off utilities such as water or electricity, remove outside windows or doors, or seize (take) the tenant's belongings in order to carry out the eviction. The landlord must use the court procedures.

The court also may award the landlord any unpaid rent if the eviction is based on the tenant's failure to pay rent. The court also may award the landlord damages, court costs, and attorney's fees (if the rental agreement or lease contains an attorney's fee clause and if the landlord was represented by an attorney). If the court finds that the tenant acted maliciously in not giving up the rental unit, the court also may award the landlord up to $600 as a penalty. The judgment against the tenant will be reported on the tenant's credit report for seven years. If you need to run tenant credit reports, see RentLaw.com Tenant Screening Services

In this case, the landlord will tell the process server to serve the occupants with a Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession form at the same time that the eviction summons and complaint are served on the tenants who are named defendants. See additional discussion of "unnamed occupants" and Claim of Right to Possession forms.

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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