Landlords: How to Legally Evict a Tenant

Unpaid rent, destroyed property, strained relations with neighbors, and a bad reputation are only a few problems that a troublesome tenant can cause to a landlord. When a tenant repeatedly violates the tenancy agreement, as well as the common rules of social interaction within a building and the community, the landlord may see no other way to solve the problem than eviction. In California, however, eviction must follow a precise process regulated by the law.A landlord who ignores the legal process or tries to evict a tenant for a reason other than a legally viable one may have the case dismissed and have to start the process over. In some cases the landlord may have to pay attorney fees or damages to the tenant for pursuing an unlawful eviction.

If you are a landlord and are dealing with a troublesome or unwanted tenant, the best way to make sure you have valid reasons for eviction is to contact an experienced California eviction attorney. However, if you want a general understanding of how the eviction process works in California and what situations can constitute a legal basis for eviction, this blog will provide you with the basic information you need.

Reasons to Start the Eviction Process

California law is very specific in providing the reasons for eviction. Thus, a landlord can only evict a tenant if they are guilty of one of the following violations:

  • failure to pay rent
  • violation of the lease or terms of the rental agreement
  • intentional damage to the property resulting in the loss of its value
  • conducting illegal activity on the property or using it for an unlawful purpose
  • causing a significant nuisance to the neighbors
  • overstaying the lease

It is important to mention that, even if a tenant is engages in one of the behaviors mentioned above, the landlord cannot threaten the tenant or use unlawful methods of eviction. Additionally, if the tenant is an immigrant, it is illegal for the landlord to threaten them with deportation. The only way to lawfully evict a tenant is to follow an established legal process. The first step of this process is to provide the tenant with a notice of eviction.

Choosing the Right Type of Notice

The correct legal term is a “notice for termination with cause.” This notice has to mention the reason for the eviction action, for example:

  • Three-day Notice to Pay Rent – this informs a tenant that they have three days to pay the rent in full (excluding utilities and penalties) or quit. If the tenant doesn’t mend the situation in three days, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit
  • Three-day Notice to Cure – this notice must be served to a tenant if they have violated the lease or rental agreement. The notice informs the tenant that they have three days to correct, or cure, the violation. Otherwise, the landlord will be in the position to file an eviction lawsuit
  • Three-day Unconditional Quit Notice – in case of serious violations, the landlord can give the tenant a notice to demanding them to move out within three days without the opportunity to amend the situation. If the tenant doesn’t vacate the property within three days, the landlord may proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit

In case of month-to-month tenancy, a landlord doesn’t have to specify the reason in a notice for termination. However, they need to serve such the notice 30 days before the termination if the tenant has occupied the property for less than one year, and 60 days before if they have occupied the property for more than one year.

Serving the Notice

Another important legal requirement landlords in California must observe is that the notice to terminate must be served to the tenant. This means that a landlord must try to personally hand over the notice to the tenant. If that proves impossible, a landlord may leave the notice at the rental unit with a person who is over 18 years of age or at the tenant’s place of work. In this case, the tenant is also required to mail a copy of the notice to the tenant. Lastly, a tenant can also place the notice on the tenant’s door and mail them a copy of the notice. In some counties, however, this action requires a permission from the court.

Eviction Lawsuit

After the time stipulated in the notice has passed and the tenant doesn’t pay the rent, correct the violation, or move out, a landlord may file an eviction lawsuit, or unlawful detainer lawsuit, with a court. If the court rules in favor of the landlord, they need to arrange the eviction with the sheriff. Again, even at this stage of eviction proceedings, it would be illegal for the landlord to try to personally remove the tenant.

Carroll Law Office assists landlords in ensuring that their eviction action is taken in full compliance with the law. If you are currently facing issues related to a troublesome or unwanted tenant, contact us to discuss your options and the best way to proceed with the eviction.