Eviction under California law is a multi-step, time-consuming process. You may only legally evict someone from your property by filing a lawsuit. Known as unlawful detainer cases, the entire process can take a month or more. Whether you handle an eviction yourself or have a property management company do it for you, the procedures are the same and the law is clear:
- An eviction notice must be provided to the resident that sets out all details required by state and local laws
- Depending on the type of notice, the resident may be given the opportunity to fix the defect(s)
- If the resident cannot, or will not, fix what is wrong, you may be able to bring an unlawful detainer lawsuit to formally evict them
Unlawful detainer cases involve specific legal documents, including a 3-day notice to pay rent, a 30-day notice, an unlawful detainer complaint, a civil case cover sheet, and a pre-judgment right of possession form. They can also be expensive: there is the loss of rent, attorney fees, court costs, sheriff fees, locksmith charges, repairs and junk removal, and cleaning fees. In addition, there are special rules for evicting members of the military.
Some property owners are perfectly comfortable handling these details. The majority, though, may find it helpful to navigate the complicated eviction process by teaming up with a qualified San Diego property management company. No matter what you decide, here are the steps you must take in California.
Establish Legal Grounds
In California, you must have valid, legal reasons for wanting to evict a resident from your leased property. Proper reasons include:
- Failure to pay rent
- Intentional property damage
- Violation of the terms of the lease
- Refusing to vacate property at end of lease term
- Using the property for an unlawful purpose
You are not permitted to cut off utilities or change the locks. You are required to go through the unlawful detainer process. Failing to follow the law can result in the resident suing you and the fines are stiff.
If the resident fails to pay rent, you must first serve a 3-day notice of rent due, which must contain very specific information. The notice is also used when a lease agreement provision has been violated, giving the resident an opportunity to “cure” the problem.
The resident must be given a certain amount of time to remedy the problem. A failure to pay rent notice requires waiting three days for the resident to pay the rent. A 30-day notice, likewise, requires you to wait those 30 days before proceeding with a lawsuit.
Initiate a Lawsuit
An unlawful detainer lawsuit begins by filing an unlawful detainer complaint and a pre-judgment right of possession form, and they must be meticulously filled out. Just as with the notices, the summons and complaint must be properly and personally served on the resident. If the person served intends to challenge the eviction, they have five business days to file a response. If they fail to file a response, you may request a default judgment.
The Court Process
Depending on where the leased property is located, and the court’s calendar, a trial date is usually set about 20 days after the request. Before that happens, the resident facing eviction can file any number of motions or demurrers to try and stop the eviction. At trial, both sides are given an opportunity to present evidence and explain their case. If you win the eviction case, you are issued a Writ of Possession and the resident has five days to move out.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, evicting someone in California is a complicated process. Property Advantage can help.
Avoiding the Court Process
Obviously, you want to avoid the entire court process in the first place. There are things a property management company can do to help.
- Placing Qualified Residents. A property management company is often the best source for finding good residents because those residents would rather deal with a property management company to start with. From initially viewing the property to dealing with maintenance and repairs, they like dealing with a proven, professional management company.
- Preventative Property Maintenance. Property managers are personally familiar with reputable electricians, painters, carpenters, landscapers, and other maintenance professionals.
- Administrative and Financial Details. A qualified property management company knows the law, is able to effectively negotiate with residents, and can competently handle difficult issues when enforcing the terms of a lease agreement.
It isn’t possible to completely eliminate the need for an eviction, but working together with a San Diego property management company can help you decrease the risk. If you are currently dealing with a possible eviction or would like to learn more about how our team can help you better manage your property, we’d be happy to answer your questions.