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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013
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California landlords may evict any tenant provided state and local laws are followed. While a landlord may be tempted to throw out a tenant who never pays rent on time and is currently overdue, or who is excessively noisy and disrespectful to his/her neighbors, landlords cannot, in California, resort to self-help measures, such as changing the locks and putting the tenant’s personal belongings out on the street. Instead, the landlord must first attempt to end the tenancy, and if that fails, may start the eviction process.
Available California Termination Notices
California landlords should seek to terminate or end a tenancy before attempting an eviction. The most common reasons for ending a tenancy are nonpayment of rent and violation of one or more lease terms. It is best to send a notice for nonpayment of rent before terminating a tenancy, even if you don’t have to by law. A record of repeat notices to pay rent will establish that a tenant has a history of late payments.
If you have a month-to-month agreement, either party (landlord or tenant) may end the tenancy with the proper amount of notice. In California, that is 30 days. If you have a lease, say with a term of one year, the tenancy naturally ends when the year is up, unless the lease is renewed. If a landlord wishes to end a tenancy earlier, he or she may do so by serving the tenant with an appropriate notice. California allows for the following types of written termination notices:
Notice to Pay Rent or Quit: This is a 3-day notice. In California, tenants have 3 days to pay their rent or move before a landlord may file for eviction. [Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 1161(2)]
Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit: This is a 3-day notice. In California, tenants have 3 days to cure (or cease) a violation of their lease or move out before a landlord may file for eviction. [Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 1161(3)]
Notice to Quit (Unconditional Quit): This is a 3-day notice. California law allows landlords 30-Day Notice to Quit (for month-to-month tenancies)[See http://www.alameda.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp/Civil/udbeforefiling.html]
In California, evictions are handled in superior court. Find your local superior court at the California Courts website. Many superior court sites and the California Courts main site will have landlord/tenant forms available to download for free. While it may seem easy (simply fill out the form and voila! – your tenant is out), sometimes events do not unfold as smoothly as you had hoped. If you are unsure of the termination and/or eviction process at any point, you may wish to hire or consult with a California landlord attorney or California tenant lawyer. See Questions to Ask Your California Evictions Lawyer, below.
California Rent Control
There are cities in California that have enacted rent control ordinances and some that require “just cause” evictions where tenants may only be evicted for specified reasons. San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Los Angeles, for example, have rent control and just cause eviction laws that regulate, amongst other things, how a landlord handles terminations and evictions, and these local laws will usually be more restrictive from the landlord’s perspective than the state’s laws. San Diego has just cause eviction restrictions, but no rent control. If you are a landlord or tenant in one of these cities, be sure you understand the special rules for these areas before proceeding with or defending a termination or eviction!
Self-Help Evictions in California
Landlords who effectively evict a tenant themselves without following state and local laws run the risk of California penalties for self-help evictions. Self-help evictions are against the law in California. If a landlord violates the law by, for example, turning off the electricity and/or water in a unit, a tenant may sue the landlord for the following [Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 789.3]:
- Actual damages;
- $100/day of violation (with $250 minimum);
- Injunction prohibiting violation during the court action;
- Right to stay;
- Court costs and attorney fees.
Questions to Ask Your California Evictions Lawyer
- How many evictions cases have you handled?
- How many were successful/unsuccessful?
- How long will the eviction process take?
- For tenants: How long do I have before I MUST move out?
- For landlords: Will I be able to get a judgment for back rent for the amount of time the tenant has been living in the rental property illegally?
- What do you charge?
- For landlords: If I hire you, will I be subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?