California landlords have a right to evict their tenants for certain legally-justified reasons. Common reasons include nonpayment of rent, lease violations, and holding over after the lease ends. 

To successfully evict a tenant, a landlord must carefully follow the statewide eviction process. You can neither evict a tenant as a retaliatory action nor in a manner that violates the fair housing act which prevents discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, nationality, or any other protected class. 

Typically, the process of evicting a tenant in California takes anywhere between 5 and 8 weeks. Of course, it can take longer depending on the specific reason for the eviction and whether a tenant puts up a fight. 

This post will provide an overview of California’s eviction laws and procedures. 

Have a Legal Ground for the Tenant Eviction

You can only evict a tenant in California if you have legal grounds to do so. The legal grounds are as follows:

Failure to Pay Rent

By default, rent is due at the start of each pay cycle. To evict a tenant on the grounds of non-payment of rent, you must serve them a 3 days notice to pay or quit. This will give them a maximum of three days to either pay the overdue rent or leave. 

evictions in California

Failure to Leave After Lease Period Ends

A tenant that refuses to leave after their lease has ended is considered a holdover renter. You must serve them an eviction notice to remove them from the rental property. This can either be a 30 days notice or a 60 days notice depending on the length of the lease agreement. 

If the tenant has a month-to-month tenancy and has lived in the rental unit for less than a year, you must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit. For tenants who are on a month-to-month lease and have lived in the property for more than a year, you must serve them a 60-Day Notice to Quit. 

Violation of a Term of the Lease Agreement 

California eviction laws allow landlords to evict a tenant who fails to uphold the terms of the lease agreement. The types of violations are split into two main categories: curable and incurable.

  • Curable violations include things like failure to keep their rental premises clean, keeping an unauthorized pet, and unauthorized subletting. In such cases, you must serve the tenant a 3 days notice to comply. 
  • Incurable violations include non-criminal nuisances and excessive rental damage. Here, you don’t have to give the tenant an opportunity to remedy the violation. You can just go ahead and serve the tenant with a 3 days notice to quit. 

can a landlord kick you out

Engaging in an Illegal Activity

In California, the illegal activity includes things like criminal activity, criminal threats, criminal nuisances, and unlawful business activity. These kinds of activities present grounds for a legal eviction. 

Move to a Superior Court and File a Complaint

Once the eviction notice period has ended, the next step in the process is to file a Complaint (Unlawful Detainer) and Summons. You must do this at the Superior Court in the applicable county in the state of California. The following is some information the complaint must include when filing: 

  • Location and address of your rental property
  • Contact information of both the landlord and tenant
  • Type of tenancy in operation
  • Whether the lease agreement is written or oral
  • Legal grounds for evicting a tenant
  • When and how the notice was served

Serve the Summons and Complaint on the Tenant

The Summons and Complaint must be served to the tenant by anyone who isn’t part of the case and is at least 18 years old. In most cases, this can be a sheriff, their deputy, a marshal, or a process server. In California, a Summons and Complaint can only be served in either of three ways: 

  1. By giving a copy to the tenant in person 
  2. By leaving a copy at the tenant’s workstation with the person in charge during normal business hours
  3. By posting a copy at a conspicuous place on the property

California eviction law

The tenant will then have a chance to respond and file a formal, written answer if they choose to. In their defense, the tenant may allege any of the following:

  • The eviction was in retaliation after they exercised their right to s joined a tenants’ union or reported you to a government agency for a habitability violation. 
  • They rectified the violation on time but you still continued with the process nonetheless. 
  • The eviction notice had errors. 
  • You tried to evict them by removing their belongings from their rented unit or using any other illegal self-help eviction tactics. 
  • The eviction was carried out on the basis of their race, color, nationality, or any other protected class which would violate the conditions of the Fair Housing Act.

Attend the Court Hearing

After filing a request, you’ll want to prepare yourself adequately for the hearing. Make sure to carry the following documents with you:

  • A copy of the lease or rental agreement
  • A copy of the eviction notice
  • The summons and complaint
  • Any supporting evidence

If the court rules in your favor, you’ll be issued a Writ of Execution and the eviction will continue. Unlike in some other states, an appeal will not stop an eviction. A Stay of Execution is the only legal document that can do that. 

when can evictions resume in California

Get Possession of Your Rental Property Back 

The Writ of Execution will provide the tenant with the last opportunity to remove their personal belongings from the property. It gives tenants only 5 days to leave on their own. If they don’t, the sheriff will return and forcefully eject them out. 

Bottom Line

Landlords in California need to follow the legal eviction process and all other landlord-tenant laws. Additional policies that you should know include security deposit laws, early lease termination, and rent increase laws. If this seems overwhelming, Keyrenter Property Management San Diego can help you manage your rentals and remain on top of your legal responsibilities!

Disclaimer: This content isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney. Also, laws change and this content may not be updated at the time of your reading.