Evicting a tenant is never an ideal situation. Every landlord would rather be able to come to a solution by communicating with their tenant and resolving the situation without taking legal action. But sometimes, it's necessary to evict tenants, so it’s important for a landlord to understand the laws in California.

A lease or rental agreement is a contract that clearly states a tenant’s obligations, like paying rent on time and adhering to the terms of the lease, for the duration of their tenancy. If at any point the tenant fails to abide by these terms, you may be able to evict them from your California property.

It goes without saying that you must follow the proper eviction process when removing a tenant. Before taking any other steps, you have to get a court order. It’d be illegal for you to do things like shut off utilities, change locks, or remove the tenant’s belongings.

The California eviction process follows these steps:

  • Serving the tenant with an eviction notice.
  • Filing a complaint in court.
  • Serving the tenant with a copy of the summons and complaint.
  • Attending the court hearing.
  • Obtaining a Writ of Possession.
  • Removing of the tenant.

Typically, from start to finish, you can expect the process to take anywhere between five and eight weeks. Eviction proceedings can also take much longer if the tenant requests a jury trial or a continuance.

A key in an open door of a rental unit

What Is the California Eviction Process?

To begin the tenant eviction process in California, you must first have legal grounds. Examples of legal grounds include nonpayment of rent, extending the tenancy without approval, and failure to uphold the lease terms. Next, you must terminate their lease by issuing them with an eviction notice.

Notice for Lease Termination with Legal Cause

A California landlord can legally evict a tenant for myriad reasons, as already mentioned. You must issue the tenant the proper notice for the eviction process to be successful. The following are the eviction notices available to a California landlord.

  • 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. Tenants are required to pay rent on time, every month. If they don’t do this, you may be able to evict them from your property. This warning gives the tenant three days to either pay the unpaid rent or leave.
  • 30-Day Notice to Quit. This applies to tenants on a month-to-month lease who have rented for less than a year. The notice gives them a maximum of 30 days to leave. The tenant has no other option.
  • 60-Day Notice to Quit. This applies to tenants on a month-to-month lease and who have rented for more than a year. It allows the tenant a maximum of 60 days to leave.

A landlord looking at a rental agreement with a family

  • 3-Day Notice to Quit. You must serve this written notice when evicting a tenant for a serious lease violation. This gives the tenant a maximum of three calendar days to leave on their own. The tenant doesn’t get a chance to remedy the issue. Examples of incurable lease violations include unlawful subletting, non-criminal nuisances, and excessive property damage.
  • 3-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This applies to tenants who commit minor violations. The notice gives the tenant the option to cure their violation or move out. Examples of curable violations include keeping unauthorized pets, failing to maintain the unit, and using the property for unauthorized purposes.

Serving a Tenant with an Eviction Notice in California

As a landlord, it’s your duty to ensure the tenant has received a copy of the eviction notice. State law also requires that you serve it properly, lest the tenant uses that as a legal defense to derail their eviction.

You must deliver the notice in one of the following ways:

  • Delivering the notice in person.
  • Mailing a copy to the tenant via certified mail or regular mail.
  • Posting a copy on the front door, or any other conspicuous area.
  • Leaving a copy with a competent household member in the absence of the tenant.
  • Posting a copy in a conspicuous area AND mailing the tenant a copy of the notice.

Person writing in a notebook in front of their open laptop as they research the California eviction process

Tenant Eviction Defenses in California

A defense is a reason why you shouldn’t win the case. The tenant may give reasons such as:

  • The eviction notice had substantial errors.
  • The eviction was based on discrimination, such as the tenant’s race, color, nationality, religion, or sex (which are all protected classes according to the Fair Housing Act).
  • The eviction was in retaliation to the tenant exercising one of their rights. Such as joining a tenants’ union to advocate for their rights, or reporting you to the health department for habitability violations.
  • The reason for the eviction process was exaggerated.
  • The tenant fixed the violation (for curable violations) but you still went ahead with the process.
  • The eviction process was illegal. For instance, you tried to evict the tenant by locking them out, shutting down their utilities, or removing their belongings.

Attending Court Hearing

If the tenant refuses to fix the violation or move out, you can choose to file an eviction lawsuit with the court. The court will then issue a Summons and Complaint. This will allow the tenant time to respond, allowing them to provide any defense they have against their eviction.

To prepare for the hearing, make sure to bring as much evidence as possible. Including, a copy of the lease agreement, a copy of the eviction notice, and witnesses if available. If the judge rules in your favor, a Writ of Execution will be issued and the eviction process will continue.

Justice figurine holding a scale

Writ of Execution

This is the final notice to the tenant to leave their rented premises. The writ affords them an opportunity to remove their belongings before being forcefully evicted. It gives them a maximum of five days to leave. If the tenant doesn’t leave within five days, the sheriff will return and forcefully remove them.

Bottom Line

It’s important that California landlords follow the proper eviction process when removing a tenant from their premises. Illegal eviction tactics do have consequences.

Are you looking for help managing tenant relations for your California rental property? If you are, Action Properties can help. We’re a full-service property management company that can help you maximize your income and minimize stress. Get in touch to learn more!

This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.