Eviction

In California, a landlord may be able to evict a tenant if the tenant:

  • Fails to pay the rent on time;
  • Breaks the lease or rental agreement and will not fix the problem (like keeping your cat when pets are not allowed);
  • Damages the property bringing down the value (commits “waste”);
  • Becomes a serious nuisance by disturbing other tenants and neighbors even after being asked to stop; or
  • Uses the property to do something illegal.

In most cities, the landlord can also evict the tenant:

  • If the tenant stays after the lease is up,* or
  • If the landlord cancels the rental agreement by giving proper notice.*

*If your city has rent control, these 2 reasons may not be good enough to evict a tenant. Contact your local city or county government office to find out if you live in a rent-controlled area.

A landlord cannot evict a tenant for an illegal reason like discrimination or to get back at the tenant for taking action against the landlord, like filing a complaint because the property’s heating system is broken.

For a landlord to evict you legally, he or she has to first give you a notice to move out or give you a chance to fix the problem (like paying the rent). If you do not do what the notice asks before the time in the notice runs out, the landlord then can file an unlawful detainer case.

Notices are very difficult, and it is not easy to explain what kind of notice a landlord has to give in each case.  If you think your landlord gave you the wrong notice or made a mistake on the notice, talk to a lawyer because it may help you with your case. Notices are not court forms, but many notice forms are available at stores that carry business or legal forms. Sometimes the forms do not comply with California law, so make sure that the notice has all the legal requirements, because if it does not, you may have a defense to the eviction case.

Keep in mind that in some cases, a landlord can give a tenant more than 1 notice at the same time.  Treat all the notices you may receive as valid.

There are different types of notices, as explained in the following table.

3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit Landlords can use this notice when the tenant is behind on the rent.
The notice must:

  • Be in writing;
  • Say the full name of the tenant or tenants;
  • Say the address of the rental property;
  • Say exactly how much rent the tenant owes* (the notice can not go back more than 1 year, even if the tenant owes back rent for a longer time, and cannot include any amount other than back rent);
  • Have the dates the overdue rent is for;
  • Say that this rent must be paid in full within 3 days of receiving this notice or the tenant must move out;
  • Say the days and times the tenant can pay the rent he or she owes, and the address he or she can pay it at; and
  • If the tenant can pay the back rent by mail, give the address the tenant should send the money to.

* The notice must NOT include other money the tenant owes, like late fees, interest, utilities, or damages.

3-Day Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit Landlords can use this kind of notice if the tenant is violating terms of the lease or rental agreement and the problem can be fixed. For example, if the tenant has moved in a pet without permission, or is not keeping the unit clean, or is violating some other term of the agreement, the notice must ask the tenant to correct the violation within 3 days or move out.
The notice must:

  • Be in writing;
  • Say the full name of the tenant or tenants;
  • Say the address of the rental property;
  • Say what the tenant did to violate the lease or rental agreement; and
  • Say the tenant has the chance to fix the problem or move out in 3 days.
3-Day Notice to Quit This kind of notice is used if there have been ongoing problems with the tenant who:

  • Causes or allows a “nuisance” on the property;
  • Uses the property to do something illegal (like sell drugs);
  • Threatens the health and safety of other tenants or the general public;
  • Commits waste (damage) that lowers the value of the property significantly; or
  • Moves in other tenants (subtenants) without the landlord’s permission.

The notice must:

  • Be in writing;
  • Say the full name of the tenant or tenants;
  • Have the address of the rental property;
  • Say everything that the tenant did to break the lease or deserve a 3-day notice to leave, and include details and dates; and
  • Say clearly that the tenant has to move out as soon as the 3 days are up.
30-Day or 60-Day Notice to Quit A landlord can use a 30 day-notice to end a month-to-month tenancy if the tenant has been renting for less than a year. A landlord should use a 60-day notice if the tenant has been renting for 1 year or more and the landlord wants the tenant to move out.
The notice must:

  • Be in writing;
  • Say the full name of the tenant or tenants;
  • Have the address of the rental property; and
  • Say that the month-to-month tenancy will end in 30 days if the landlord is giving a 30-day notice or in 60 days if he or she is giving a 60-day notice.

In rent-controlled cities, a landlord cannot cancel a month-to-month tenancy for just any reason. The landlord must find out if the unit is in a rent-controlled city, and if so, whether the landlord has the right to evict the tenant. Contact your local city or county government office to find out if you live in a rent-controlled area.

90-Day Notice to Quit A landlord must use this kind of notice if the tenant is in subsidized housing (Section 8). The landlord must explain why he or she is asking the tenant to move out, and the landlord must have good reasons (“just cause”) to ask the tenant to leave.

The landlord has to serve the notice on you and other tenants properly. The landlord can do it himself or herself, or he or she can ask a friend to do it. The landlord can also hire a process server. The person who serves the notice must be at least 18 years old.

There are 3 ways for the landlord to serve you with the notice:

  • Personal service: The landlord or someone else gives the notice directly to you, in person.
  • Substituted service: If you are not home or at work, the landlord can leave the notice with a competent member of the household where you live or someone in charge where you work AND then mail a second copy to you at the address where the papers were left.
  • Posting and mailing (“nail and mail”) service: If there is no one home to leave the papers with, the landlord can tape or nail the notice to the front door or somewhere where it can be seen easily, AND send a copy by mail to you at the property.

A notice is almost always needed before filing an unlawful detainer case. But there are a few exceptions:

  • Fixed term leases: If you have a lease for a fixed period of time, and the lease is up and the landlord does not extend it, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case without giving notice first. But the landlord cannot take any rent after the lease runs out or he or she will be creating a new month-to-month tenancy.*
  • The landlord accepts your notice to end the lease: If you give the landlord notice that you will be moving out, but you do not, then the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case right away.
  • You work for the landlord and live on the property as part of the job: The landlord can file an unlawful detainer case without notice as soon as you do not work for the landlord anymore.

* In a rent-controlled area, the landlord may not be able to evict a tenant when the lease is up unless the landlord has a good reason (“just cause”) to file an eviction case. The landlord will probably need a notice in that case. Contact your local city or county government office to find out if you live in a rent-controlled area.

In general, once a landlord gives you notice, you can:

  • Do what the notice asks within the time allowed,
  • Not do what the notice asks, or
  • Try to reach an agreement with the landlord.

If you do not do what the notice asks, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case in court to evict you and collect back rent.  If you do what the notice requires (like pay the back rent in full), then the landlord cannot file an unlawful detainer case. If he or she does anyway, you can successfully defend yourself against it.

If the landlord does not wait until the notice period runs out to file the eviction case in court, you can ask the court to dismiss the case.

To count the days in the notice period:

  • The first day is the day after the notice is served.
  • Then count every day on the calendar, including weekends and holidays.
  • If the last day of the notice period falls on a holiday or weekend, then the notice period ends the next work day.
  • If the landlord does not serve the notice in person and has to mail a second copy, the notice period starts running the day after he or she mails the notice.

If you have not done what the eviction notice asks by the time the notice runs out, the landlord must file papers in court to get the case started. The landlord will file a Summons and Complaint for an unlawful detainer (eviction) at the court.

from California Courts

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