The civil codes governing eviction in
California state that landlords must give at least three days’ written notice to tenants before filing an eviction lawsuit. In addition, it’s illegal to evict anyone without going through the courts and calling a sheriff—so be on the lookout to protect your rights!
It’s no secret that living in California is expensive, and the economic roller coaster of the COVID-19 pandemic has put thousands of Golden State residents at risk of eviction. With the economy on shaky footing, it’s important for every tenant to know their state’s eviction laws.
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renters insurance, has created a guide to eviction in California. We’ll go over a general timeline of the eviction process, look at the requirements for landlords, and show you a few important tips for protecting yourself from a wrongful eviction.
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California eviction 101: the three ways you can be evicted
One central rule applies to every type of eviction in California: the landlord must provide a written notice to the tenant at least three days before filing an eviction suit. Also known as an unlawful detainer lawsuit, this legal process is the only way to legitimately evict a tenant in the state of California.
California evictions break down into three basic types based on cause. Your landlord can threaten to evict you for:
Failure to pay rent: Requires a three-day notice allowing the tenant to pay rent in full to avoid eviction.
Violation of lease: Requires a three-day notice allowing the tenant to amend, or “cure,” any lease violations to avoid eviction.
Unconditional quit: In cases of serious violations such as illegal subletting, substantial damage to the unit, or creating a nuisance, the landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice with no chance to fix the problem.
If your landlord doesn’t want you to keep living on the property, but doesn’t have a valid reason from the list above, they cannot legally evict you. However, they can choose not to renew your lease. The exact requirements of your landlord depend on the terms of your rental agreement:
If you’re on a month-to-month lease and have been renting for less than a year, your landlord must give you at least 30 days’ notice that you’ll need to move at the end of the month.
If you’re on a month-to-month lease and have been renting for a year or more, your landlord must give you at least 60 days’ notice that you’ll need to move out.
If you’re on a fixed-term (i.e. longer than a month) lease, your landlord doesn’t need to notify you that you’ll need to move. If your lease is close to expiring and you haven’t heard from the landlord, it’s a good idea to check in proactively.
No matter what the cause of your eviction, if you’re not able to resolve the problem by paying rent, fixing damage, or otherwise negotiating an agreement with your landlord, they will have a legal right to file an eviction lawsuit after three days. If they win that lawsuit, California law requires the landlord to call a sheriff to perform the actual removal of tenants.
Key Takeaway It’s illegal in California for a landlord to evict tenants personally, without a court case, or without a three-day written notice.
A timeline of eviction in California
So you’re entitled to three days’ notice before an eviction lawsuit can be filed—but just how long can you expect that lawsuit to take? If you’re facing a possible eviction in California, here’s how long the whole process typically takes:
How long it typically takes
Written notice from landlord
Your landlord should send you a written notice outlining the reasons for the eviction. **NOTE**: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the landlord may be required to include language from
Code of Civil Procedure 1179.10
After filing a lawsuit, your landlord will serve you with a court summons.
You’ll have five business days to respond before the hearing, or 15 business days if you respond by mail.
20 days after the hearing request
The court will rule on the case, based on the landlord’s information and your response.
Within 24 hours after the hearing
Unless you successfully file a stay of execution, which requires you to pay rent, the landlord can call a sheriff to evict you within 24 hours.
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All in all, an eviction can be a lengthy process—depending on how swiftly the landlord moves, you might have over a month after the initial notice before the sheriff is knocking at your door. However, a determined landlord can push the process through much quicker, so it’s worth knowing your position when that notice shows up.
How to resist eviction in California
Don’t forget that
tenants have rights in the state of California. If your landlord is trying to evict you, you can fight back in a few different ways:
Address the cause of the eviction. The simplest way (on paper) to fight an eviction is to deal with whatever problem caused the landlord to send you a notice. If you can borrow money, call a plumber, or do anything else necessary to address your landlord’s concerns, this is the quickest way to shut down eviction proceedings.
Point out a procedural mistake. Knowing eviction laws puts you in a position of power when your landlord starts threatening to evict. If you catch them failing to follow procedure, such as by changing locks or turning off utilities, you can complain to the court and have the case dismissed.
Argue that the landlord failed to maintain the property. If your landlord’s trying to evict you due to water damage, but the water damage was caused by leaky plumbing they refused to fix despite repeated requests, you may be able to avoid an eviction.
Call out discrimination. It’s illegal for a California landlord to evict anyone on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and more. If your landlord’s threatened eviction suit seems to be based on any of those things, you may be able to get it dismissed.
You can use any of the above defenses to respond to a landlord’s eviction lawsuit or to sue the landlord outright. If you win the case, you could be awarded damages and court fees—and, of course, avoid getting thrown out of your home.
How to save money on California car and renters insurance
Failure to pay rent is one of the most common reasons for eviction—but in today’s economy, with rents skyrocketing across the country, coming up with the necessary cash each month can be a serious struggle.
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