How The Eviction Process Works For Tenants & Landlords

Property Management Done Right

For over 30 years, we’ve provided the Greater Los Angeles Area and Orange County with property management services that simplify the lives of residential and commercial property owners as well as their tenants. In particular, our residential property management resources have been known to reduce turnover, streamline communication between tenants and landlords, as well as optimize rent collection. For our residential properties, clients can choose from our full suite of service offerings, including:

  • 24/7 Customer Service & Emergency Response
  • Tenant Acquisition
  • Tenant Screening & Background Checks
  • Rent Collection
  • Lease Management
  • Recordkeeping
  • Financial Reporting
  • Marketing & Advertising
  • Lease Writing & Addendums
  • Lease-Ups
  • Vendor Management
  • Maintenance & Renovations

Did you know that we also offer tenant support and dispute resolution as part of our complete and comprehensive property management services?

At RTI Properties, Inc. we also assist our clients with the eviction process and aim to make it as seamless as possible for both parties involved–the tenant and the landlord.

In this blog, our property management experts have broken down the eviction process according to California state law as a reference for both property owners and tenants. Let’s get started!

What You Need To Know About The California Eviction Process

Before evicting a tenant, California law requires all residential landlords and property owners to legally terminate the tenancy in question. The first step in the process for the landlord is to issue the tenant a written notice. If the tenant does not move out or fall into compliance with the lease/rental agreement by the specified date—i.e. paying rent, finding a new home for dogs/cats (when the lease prohibits pets), etc.–then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit, which is also known as an unlawful detainer suit. More serious lease violations won’t require landlords to give tenants the opportunity for compliance.

According to California law, there are exact requirements for ending a tenancy, and there are different types of termination notices and procedures to accompany each unique situation. Keep in mind that properties and communities with rent control ordinances can impose additional rules when it comes to terminating a tenancy. At RTI Properties, Inc., our property management experts are well-versed in all of the local jurisdiction surrounding the eviction process, lawsuits, and tenant/landlord compliance–as complex and overwhelming as it might seem. Here, we go over the different types of eviction notices and defenses tenants can take in the state of California.

Notice For Tenancy Termination With Cause

In California, a landlord can terminate a tenancy before the end of a lease agreement, otherwise known as an eviction, for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • Failed rent collection
  • Lease or rental agreement violations
  • Onsite illegal acts or crimes

Before evicting a tenant, the property owner is required to give them an official written notice, in which the cause for tenancy termination will determine the type of notice issued. The following are different types of notices landlords and/or property managers must procure in the event of an eviction:

Tenancy Termination Notice

Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent

If the tenant fails to pay rent on the agreed upon date and/or within the given grace period, a California landlord is allowed to issue a three-day notice to pay rent, which requires a tenant to pay the full amount in order to continue living on the property. If the tenant does not abide by the three-day notice to pay rent, a landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court after the three-day period has passed.

Three-Day Notice to Cure

In the event that a tenant violates a lease or rental agreement, the landlord can produce a three-day notice to cure in response. When this type of notice is given, a tenant has three days to correct the violation, and if they fail or refuse to follow the provision, the landlord and/or property owner can serve the tenant with an eviction lawsuit.

Three-Day Unconditional Quit Notice

This type of notice is given to the tenant if they are accountable for serious violations, illegal acts, or crimes on the given residential property. In this case, the tenant is required to move out of the rental unit within three days of receiving the notice without any opportunity to correct the violation. If the tenant fails to move out within three days, a property owner can opt for an eviction lawsuit. However, it’s important to keep in mind that three-day unconditional quit notices can only be issued in the following circumstances:

  • Subletting in violation of the lease or rental agreement
  • Substantial damage or vandalism on the residential property
  • Accumulation of frequent complaints
  • Reports of suspicious or illegal acts

Notice For Tenancy Termination Without Cause

For California property owners, it’s important to remain compliant and up-to-date according to the tenets for terminating a lease without cause. This is because these types of evictions differ in process according to whether the tenancy is month-to-month or a fixed term. At RTI Properties, our team of property management and real estate experts are experienced and certified in all civil codes to resolve tenant disputes and handle evictions effectively and efficiently. We’ve outlined the differences between month-to-month and fixed term cases here:

Month-To-Month

When a tenant has agreed to a month-to-month rental term and has lived in the unit or space for less than one year, the property owner and/or property manager is required to give the tenant a written 30-day notice to end the tenancy. If the tenant has lived on a property for over a year and has a month-to-month rental agreement, a landlord will need to furnish a written 60-day notice to officially end the tenancy. Although no cause or reason is necessary, both types of notices are required by law to inform the tenant of the end-date of their tenancy agreement.

Fixed-Term

For tenancies that outlast a month-to-month agreement (such as a 6-month or 12-month lease), the landlord is not allowed to end the tenancy without cause until the end of the term, but a property owner is not required to produce a written eviction notice at the end of the term unless the lease specifically outlines it. For example, if a tenant has a one-year lease that expires at the end of December, and the tenant in question has not requested a lease renewal, the property owner and/or property manager will not be required to serve a 30-day or 60-day notice to move out by the end of December–unless this a specific term within the lease agreement.

Eviction Defenses For Tenants

When a tenant is served an eviction notice for either failing to pay rent on time or violating a lease or rental agreement, there are certain rights and defenses available for a tenant to fight an eviction lawsuit. At RTI Properties, we’re committed to the comprehensive success of all of our residential properties, including tenant satisfaction. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of defenses for tenants in the state of California as a helpful resource!

Eviction Defenses For Tenants

Landlord Attempts a “Self-Help” Eviction

In California, a property owner can only officially evict a tenant by means of furnishing written notices and/or undergoing the court process. It is absolutely prohibited for a landlord to force a tenant to move out using retaliation tactics, such as turning off the utilities or changing the locks on the doors or windows without notifying the tenant and providing replacement keys. Commonly, this type of tenant-landlord scenario is called a “self-help” eviction. If you’re a California tenant who is facing or has faced a self-help eviction, you have the right to sue the landlord for any damages to your possessions.

Noncompliant Evictions

When attempting to evict a tenant in California, it is crucial that the property owner carefully follow all of the rules and regulations set forth in the California Code for compliance and legal protection. If the landlord violates any of the rules or regulations set forth by the state, the eviction may be considered null. For example, a landlord is required to give any non-paying tenant a written three-day notice to pay rent or quit before filing an official lawsuit. If the property owner goes straight to court without producing any written notice, the tenant can defend against the eviction by claiming a lack of a written notice. In these cases, the judge will dismiss the eviction as invalid, and the landlord will need to restart the eviction process so that it’s compliant, beginning with a three-day notice to the tenant. If the three days have passed and the tenant still has not fulfilled their rent payment, then the property owner and/or property manager can file a new eviction lawsuit that proceeds in compliance with California law.

For tenants and landlords, it’s important to remember that this type of eviction defense does not necessarily stop a justified eviction in its tracks–it just delays the overall process. As soon as a landlord corrects their compliance breach, the eviction process can continue uninterrupted.

Tenant Paid Rent in Full

As mentioned before, a California landlord is required to provide a three-day notice to pay rent or quit before filing an eviction lawsuit. If the tenant in question pays rent within the clearly stated three-day period, the property owner is not allowed to pursue eviction any further since the rent collection notice has been fulfilled. If you’re a California tenant that has been served a three-day notice to pay rent, be sure to ask for a time-stamped receipt when submitting your rental fees. This will serve as physical proof that rent was paid within the three-day notice period if the property owner continues with an eviction lawsuit anyway.

Landlord Did Not Maintain the Rental Unit

In the state of California, residential property owners are required to maintain a rental unit according to a minimum set of standards by law. For example, a landlord must provide waterproofing and weather protection on all roofs, walls, windows, and doors for the safety of their structure and tenants. If a landlord’s property is not maintained according to civil codes, California state law outlines when and how tenants can withhold rent. If a tenant complies with the law in withholding rent, and the landlord serves them a three-day notice for nonpayment, the tenant can use the landlord’s failure to maintain the rental unit as an affirmative defense to the eviction lawsuit that proceeds as a result.

Landlord Evicts Tenant For Lease Agreement Violation(s)

According to the law, property owners must allow for a three-day grace period to correct a lease violation before filing an eviction lawsuit. Although there are exceptions, if the tenant fixes the lease violation within the outlined three-day period, a landlord can no longer legally proceed with the eviction process. However, if the landlord files a lawsuit anyway, the tenant can provide proof that the violation was corrected within the appropriate time frame as a defense to the eviction in court.

Landlord Evicts Tenant For Lease Agreement Violation

Landlord Discriminates against the Tenant

As you might already know, the federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against any tenant(s) based on their race, religion, gender, national origin, familial status (including children under the age of 18 and pregnant women), or disability. Additionally, California has enacted the Fair Employment and Housing Act to protect its renting citizens, making it illegal for property owners to discriminate against identities not covered by the Fair Housing Act such as: gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, medical condition, and age. If a landlord tries to evict a tenant based on any of these identifying characteristics, the tenant can use the discrimination as a defense to the eviction in court.

Resources For California Tenants

If a California rent-paying tenant is experiencing an unjust, noncompliant, and/or discriminatory eviction lawsuit, there are plenty of resources and protection they can access. We’ve provided some options below for your reference.

Legal aid organizations, such as LawHelpCA.org, can provide free or low-cost legal assistance to those who qualify based on income. The State of California also offers free information online for any landlord-tenant issues. Tenants who live in federally assisted housing can learn more about their specific rights by accessing the tenant resource page at HUD.gov.

It’s important to note that eviction cases are filed within the superior court of the county in which the rental unit is located. To find your superior court, visit the online directory maintained by the California Court System. The California courts also provide information on eviction lawsuits and the court process as part of their online self-help center.

Compliant Commercial & Residential Property Management

Are you a landlord or tenant with additional questions that weren’t answered by this blog post on the eviction process? Feel free to call us and speak directly with one of our property management experts by dialing 310.532.5470.