Everything You Need to know About the Eviction Process

The eviction process is a stressful process for not only the person being evicted (tenant) but also the person doing the eviction (landlord).  The reasons for the stress are different but may also be eerily similar.

Evictions can be expensive for both the landlord and the tenant. It may not be a cheap process for either side.  Not only is it expensive in terms of money but think of the amount of time and energy it may take.  In a best-case-scenario a landlord and tenant can come to some sort of agreement prior to an eviction proceeding.  When this does not happen eviction proceedings generally occur.

What is an eviction?  Eviction is the removal of a tenant from a property by a landlord.  An eviction can also be known as an unlawful detainer and many other terms, however, the term eviction is the most commonly used term.

Before the filing of a lawsuit, the landlord must provide a written notice to the tenant (generally called notice to vacate or notice to quit).  A landlord can evict a tenant “without cause” (i.e. no breach in the lease, the landlord just wishes to end the tenant landlord relationship) or “for cause” (i.e. failure to pay rent or breach of any other covenant found in a lease).  The termination is generally conditional or unconditional.  Conditional means the tenant may remain in possession of the property if certain conditions are met (i.e. payment of back rents owed or performance of a broken covenant).  Unconditional means there is nothing the tenant can do in order to remain in the property and they must leave by a certain, specified, date.

If the tenant fails to vacate the property by the specified date, the landlord must serve the tenant(s) with an eviction lawsuit.  Once served with an eviction notice/unlawful detainer lawsuit the tenant must file a response with the court.  In California, the time limit given to a tenant whom is served with an unlawful detainer suit is a short five (5) days.  Failure to file a response causes the tenant to forfeit all of their rights and the landlord can file for a default judgment against the tenant and basically win the lawsuit.

By filing an answer a tenant may state their side of the story.  Maybe they feel the landlord is wrong in filing the unlawful detainer and within their answer they may express why.  Maybe they were served the notice improperly.  All of these are affirmative defenses, where if the judge ultimately sides with the tenant they will be allowed to stay in possession of the property.  However, if the landlord wins, the tenant will be forced to vacate, generally within a week of the ruling.  Although there are ways to delay this a few days, ultimately, the tenant will have to vacate sooner rather than later.

If the tenant still fails to leave after the eviction/unlawful detainer action, the landlord will obtain a writ of possession from the court.  They then give the writ to a sheriff or law enforcement official who will post a move out date at the property.  On the date posted, the landlord must be present with a locksmith.  The sheriffs will enter the home and physically remove anyone remaining in the property.  The locksmith will then change the locks.  Any property left in the home will be available to the tenants once any back owed rents, or judgment against them is paid.

Evictions/Unlawful detainer actions should not be entered into lightly. An eviction/unlawful detainer action will appear on a tenant’s credit report and make it difficult to rent a new place.  Communication early on in the eviction/unlawful detainer process is crucial.  Any opportunity for an agreement to be reached outside of court is the best case scenario for everyone involved.

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Luis Castro is the President of Superior Court Docs . Visit today for a free consultation and preparation of your legal paperwork.

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