The Law Office of Zak Fisher proudly represents tenants in Los Angeles County. Our office does not represent landlords. We understand that undergoing an eviction is a fast-paced and often stressful process. We are here to help and do our best to make sure you achieve the best possible outcomes in your case.
Each case is unique, and any information provided below should not be considered legal advice for your case. Consult with an attorney regarding the specific facts in your case.
If you have been served an eviction notice or have reason to believe you are the defendant in an ongoing unlawful detainer case in Los Angeles County, schedule a free initial consultation with our office today.
Overview of California Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) Proceedings
The Unlawful Detainer Process In California Starts With An Eviction Notice
An Unlawful Detainer is the legal term used for the legal eviction process in California. In California, a landlord must go through the court process to legally force a tenant to leave. A landlord cannot legally force you to leave the premises until they successfully obtain a judgment and a writ of possession.
Generally, a landlord can attempt to terminate a tenancy in one of four ways:
A fixed-term lease is expired and the landlord does not intend or expect to renew a tenant’s lease. If a tenant is covered by a state or local “just cause for eviction” law, then the landlord may not be able to evict a tenant (Cal. Civ. Code § 1946.2).
The landlord served the tenant a three-day notice because of a lease violation.
The landlord served the tenant a 30-, 60-, or 90-day notice terminating the tenancy.
The tenant gave the landlord a 30-day notice stating that they are moving out.
Tenants should always consider speaking with an attorney to determine the validity of the notice and which response should be filed with the court. Contact an attorney right away if you are served an Unlawful Detainer Complaint and Summons.
If the tenant has not completed what was asked in the notice by the deadline, the landlord may file an Unlawful Detainer Complaint against the tenant in superior court, which will begin a lawsuit against the tenant.
Landlord Must Fulfill Required Service of Unlawful Detainer Summons and Complaint
Once the suit is filed with the court, the landlord must then properly serve a copy of the Complaint and Summons to the tenant within 60 days of filing, or the court will dismiss the case. If there are multiple defendants named in an unlawful detainer, each tenant must be individually served. A tenant may be served by personal service or by substituted service. However, with the court’s permission, a tenant may be served by posting and mailing the Complaint and Summons.
Tenants will find “COMPLAINT – Unlawful Detainer” and “SUMMONS – Unlawful Detainer” on the bottom center of the served papers. The Unlawful Detainer Complaint will indicate what reasons the landlord is evicting the tenant, and the Unlawful Detainer summons will notify the tenant that they have five days (not counting Sunday, Saturday, or court holidays) to file a formal written response with the court. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1167).
If a tenant was served by posting and mailing, with the Unlawful Detainer Complaint and Summons posted on the door and mailed to them, the time to file a written response with the court is extended from five court days to five court days after 10 days have passed since the documents were mailed.
Default Judgment – The Consequence For Not Responding In Time
If a tenant fails to provide a proper written response in the allotted time to the court, the landlord may “Request to Enter Default“ with the court for a default judgment against the tenant. This means that the tenant would lose the unlawful detainer case without undergoing trial and having the opportunity to defend their rights. If a default judgment is entered, the Sheriff will then post a “Notice to Vacate” on the tenant’s door, giving them five days’ notice to move out. Failure to voluntarily move out by the date on the notice will prompt the Sheriff to forcibly remove the tenant(s) from the premises and lock their belongings in the residence. To avoid a default judgment and an eviction on their record, the tenant should file a proper written response to the court within the allotted time.
Responding to the Complaint – Your First Document To File With the Court
Tenants can file one of the following responses to the Unlawful Detainer Complaint:
A Motion to Quash may be filed if the Summons was not properly served to the tenant or if there was a defect in the Summons itself.
A Demurrer may be filed if the Complaint was not filed in proper technical form or does not properly allege the landlord’s right to evict the tenant.
An Answer may be the first response a tenant files with the court, or the response a tenant would file if the court denies a Motion to Quash or Demurrer. Tenants should also generally file a Demand for Jury Trial along with their Answer when filing with the court. Make sure to also file payment for the jury trial or a fee waiver request to cover the court costs an unlawful detainer jury trial necessitates. Failure to promptly demand a jury trial in writing and make arrangements to post jury fees could result in forfeiture of your opportunity to adjudicate your case by jury trial.
After You Have Filed Your Answer – Preparing For Trial
Once the tenant files their Answer, the landlord will then ask the court to set a trial date. Once a trial date is requested, the court will typically set the trial within 20 days of the request. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1170.5(a).)
While awaiting trial, the tenant and landlord may discuss settling outside of the courtroom. Tenants and landlords may also conduct written discovery and/or make pretrial motions. If the outcome of the case is not determined by a pretrial motion or by settlement, the tenant and landlord will have to appear for trial on the date it is set for. At that time, a settlement may occur right before the tenant and landlord are set to go to trial. If no settlement is reached, the finder of fact (a judge or a jury of the defendant’s peers) will determine the outcome of the Unlawful Detainer after trial.
After The Trial
If the tenant loses the trial, the landlord will likely receive a “Writ of Possession” from the court and the Sheriff will then serve this to the tenant. Once this is served to the tenants, they have five days to vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to move out by the fifth day, the Sheriff can forcibly and physically remove the tenant(s) from the premises unless the court grants a temporary Stay of Eviction. A temporary stay of eviction provides the tenant additional time to stay at the premises while they look for new living arrangements.
If the tenant wins the unlawful detainer trial, they are not guilty of unlawful detainer and may continue to reside on the premises. Tenants could potentially be awarded some or all of their attorney’s fees back, and they likely have a basis to sue their landlord.
Eviction / Unlawful Detainer FAQs from Tenants
No. Getting an eviction notice means that you should speak with a qualified tenants’ rights attorney before the time given in the notice to perform expires. A Writ of Possession, which is entirely different document than a notice to quit, duly ordered and authorized by a magistrate is the only document that gives your landlord the legal right to have you forcibly removed from your tenancy.
If you are in this situation, you should get in touch with an eviction defense attorney as soon as possible. You may have to respond in the case in order to preserve your rights to possession of the home. You may have to respond quickly to preserve your rights. Do not delay consulting with a qualified attorney if you are in this situation.
You may still have to file a written response with the court within the allotted time limit. If you do not file a response, you may end up with a default judgment which may cause you to pay for rent that may be unowed, court costs, and, in some cases, attorney’s fees. You may also end up with an unlawful detainer on your credit report which will reduce your chances of securing rental housing in the future. Consult with an eviction defense attorney as soon as possible.
Receiving a notice to quit, on its own, is unlikely to affect your credit report or your credit score. However, if the notice to quit leads to a successful judgment against you for an unlawful detainer, your credit report will likely be affected. If you have received a notice to quit or any document that leads you to believe your landlord may be attempting to evict you, you should get in touch with an eviction defense attorney as soon as you possibly can.
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