The Eviction Process
If your landlord tells you to move, it doesn’t mean you have to.
Evictions must follow specific legal procedures and a court hearing before you can be forced to move.
Please Note – In many cities such as in Los Angeles County immediately to the west of us here in the OC, some “no fault” evictions require landlords to pay relocation benefits and restrict whether or not a landlord can raise the rent on a new tenant or convert the unit into a condominium. Tenants who move just because the landlord tells them to —without making the landlord actually issue an eviction notice— allow the landlord to evade re-rental and condo conversion restrictions, as well as significant cash relocation benefits that you might be entitled to.
Also – Just because a landlord is might be selling a property, or just bought the property, is not ground for eviction (even if it’s a foreclosure).
Remember – Tenants are evicted all the time by greedy landlords seeking to raise rents. If you are facing an unjust eviction, fight back – oftentimes you can win!
How Long Does An Eviction Take?
It varies case by case, but from the time most tenants get their first notice to the point when the sheriff comes to evict the tenant takes at least a month; sometimes two, assuming the tenant responds to all notices. The basic steps of an eviction are:
- Landlord gives eviction notice,
- If tenant doesn’t move, landlord serves an Unlawful Detainer
- Tenant gets to challenge the eviction in court
- Court rules for tenant or landlord
- If landlord wins, sheriff posts final eviction notice and evicts tenants at end of that notice period.
Evictions Are Done Only Through The Court Process
When you rent a house or an apartment, you have legal possession until you either choose to give up possession or the landlord gets a court order for reclaiming possession. You have the right to bring your case to a jury. If you win, you get to stay. If you lose, only the sheriff has the right to remove you.
You have all these rights even if you are behind in your rent. Your landlord can not lock you out or put your belongings on the street or turn off your utilities. This is a violation of California Civil Code Section 789.3 and the landlord is liable for $100 a day in penalties.
The Eviction Process – Get Competent Legal Help
The legal eviction process is long and complicated. Along the way there are many possibilities for negotiations and ways to make the law work in your favor. Contact Legal Service Center at (855) 775-5400 to plan your strategy.
The First Eviction Notice — 3, 30, or 60-Day Notice
An eviction begins with a 3-Day, a 30-Day, or a 60-day notice. Generally, 3-Day Notices are given for “curable” evictions (e.g., “pay the rent in 3-days or be evicted”). 30-Day Notices are for tenants who have lived in their units less than a year and 60-Day Notices are for more that a year. On the other hand, 30 or 60-Day Notices are considered “non-curable:” (e.g., “I will be moving into your rental home or apartment”).
You do not necessarily have to leave your home or apartment by the end of this notice and your landlord can’t force you out. If you haven’t moved by the end of this period, only then can the landlord begin the legal eviction process. If you receive a 3, 30, or 60-Day Notice contact Legal Service Center to inquire if it’s a legal notice and what you can do about it.
Remember – A 3-day notice is used for “correctable” causes and it must give you an alternative to correct the cause or to leave: (e.g., “Pay the rent in 3 days or move”… “Get rid of the cat in 3 days or move.”) A 30 or 60-day notice is used for “non-correctable” evictions: (e.g., “My parents are moving into your unit”… “I have approved building plans and permits and will be remodeling the property.”)
The Second Notice —“Unlawful Detainer”
If the tenant does not comply and move by the end of the first eviction notice, the landlords will typically serve the tenant with a “Summons and Complaint For Unlawful Detainer.”
You MUST RESPOND to an Unlawful Detainer IN FIVE DAYS or you will lose your right to a hearing on your eviction. The 5-days BEGIN the day after you receive the Summons. Weekends and holidays count as days, but the 5-days cannot end on a weekend or holiday. If you do not respond, you will automatically lose.
Responding to an Unlawful Detainer – You respond to the Summons by submitting a specialized court document called an “Answer.” Your answer must filed in a legal format; it must be typewritten and you must follow certain legal procedures. It would be in your best interest to hire a competent and experienced Eviction Specialist to answer the Unlawful Detainer Summons and Complaint. Speed is critical. Since you only have 5-Days to answer, you need time for your attorney to get up-to-speed on your situation and determine what defenses might be valid for your unique situation.
If one of our lawyers is representing you in an Unlawful Detainer action and we insist on a jury trial, we will have to attend a “Settlement Conference.” This is where we and the landlord (or the landlord’s attorney) will have to come before a judge and try to reach a compromise settlement where we can oftentimes reach an amicable arrangement. At this conference, the judge attempts to have you and your landlord settle the case without going to trial. Chances are very good that your landlord probably thought that filing the Unlawful Detainer would scare you into vacating the property without any fuss. Moreover, he probably didn’t really want this to go this far – and will be wanting this to “go away” as much as you by this point. This often shifts the advantage from the landlord to the tenants who unexpectedly respond with an attorney and show a little backbone. We can often reach an acceptable settlement at this point. Remember, however, we do not have to settle your case at the settlement conference; you have the right to have your day in court if your landlord is inflexible or if we have a terrific case and your landlord inadvertently “stepped into a big mess” that might have him at a serious disadvantage.
We may have several legal defenses: Not paying rent can be justified as you were withholding rent because of uncorrected housing code violations; or perhaps your rental agreement said nothing about you having pets, or in the case of the relatives “moving in…” Moreover, if we can prove that this attempted eviction is all a ruse and not true – oftentimes we discover that the landlord just wants you out to rent the unit at a significantly higher rent to a new tenant: happens all the time! Or it may be that we have procedural defenses: Your landlord accepted rent after the 30-day notice expired or the eviction notice was not a legal one.
Having Legal Service Center help you challenge your eviction lawsuit can be very advantageous. If you have good legal or procedural defenses and you want to remain in your home permanently, it will likely be well worth the time and effort.
Going to Trial
When you go to court, your landlord, or his attorney, will present his case to the jury and then you, or your attorney, will present your case. You will be able to bring witnesses and present other evidence, such as reports from the Department of Building and Safety, Health Department, or other witnesses. If the jury decides in your favor, you will get to stay. If they decide in the landlord’s favor, the judge will send the eviction order to the Sheriff.
The Third Notice —The Sheriff’s Notice
If you do nothing; if you fail to answer an “Unlawful Detainer,” or lose in court, the Sheriff will receive a court order. He will then come post a Notice To Vacate on your door. The notice gives you five days to leave and if you do not leave by that time, the sheriff will come and remove you. It’s best to leave by the fifth day and avoid having your belongings put into storage.
If you can’t leave within the five days, you can go back to court and file a “Stay of Execution.” You will need to pay one week’s rent to the court and this will delay the eviction for another week.
How Long Until I’m Evicted?
If you file an Answer – to the Unlawful Detainer Summons and Complaint, it will take at least 4-6 weeks from that point before the Sheriff evicts you. Sometimes it can take much longer, especially if you have a good case or if you aggressively defend your eviction on legal and procedural grounds.
If you do not file an Answer – to the Summons and Complaint, the Sheriff could remove you as soon as a week or two.
Contact an Experienced Tenant’s Rights Firm
Legal Service Center is here to help tenants, and is ready to help you deal with an eviction notice or termination of tenancy. We will use the law to help you protect your home and your tenants’ rights.