When a tenant signs the lease, they are legally bound to abide by certain terms. Such as, paying rent on time, respecting the property, and abiding by certain policies under landlord-tenant law. Sadly, some tenants chose not to honor these terms. 

Under California law (CA Civil Code 1940-1954.05), landlords have certain rights. One such right is the right to evict a tenant for failure to abide by the terms of the lease agreement. This would include breaking the lease. In exercising that right, however, you must strictly follow the state’s eviction process. 

The following is a basic overview of the process California landlords must follow when evicting tenants from their investment property

California Eviction Process

You can begin the eviction process against your tenant once you have a legal reason to do so. Common reasons for tenant eviction in California include nonpayment of rent, end of the lease, and lease violation. 

Next, you must serve the tenant with an appropriate eviction notice. There are different eviction notices depending on the violation committed. For example, to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, you must serve them a 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. If you serve them a different notice, the eviction process will fail. You’ll then need to restart the process all over again. 

someone checking their boxes as they move out

If the tenant fails to abide by the terms of the eviction notice, you must file a lawsuit in the applicable county in California to continue with the eviction. This process will cost you anywhere between $240 and $435 in filing fees, these fees are not eligible to be taken out of the tenant’s security deposit

The tenant will then be served with a Summons & Complaint, giving them a chance to respond. If the tenant fails to do this, the court may issue a default judgment in your favor. The court will then proceed to send you a Writ of Execution, giving possession of the property back to you. 

Please note that it’s illegal to evict a tenant through any of the following methods in the state of California. 

  • Changing the locks
  • Shutting off utilities promised in the lease
  • Removing the tenant’s personal belongings
  • Retaliating against the tenant exercising any of their rights, such as, joining or supporting an organization that supports tenants’ rights 
  • Trying to evict the tenant on the basis of skin color, race, nationality, or any other protected class. 

Trying to do any of these things will not only cause the eviction to fail, but you may also find yourself in serious legal trouble. 

Lease Termination Notice

As previously mentioned, a California landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for multiple reasons. To start the process, you must serve the tenant with the right notice. 

two people packing their belongings into bags

The following are the different types of notices for lease termination with justification. 

  • 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. You must serve this notice to tenants who fail to pay rent on time. The notice provides the tenant with two options. One, to pay the rent due; or two, to leave the premises. They must take either action within 3 days. 
  • 30-Day Notice to Quit. You must use this notice when looking to terminate a month-to-month lease. This gives the tenant a maximum of 30 days to leave on their own. This, however, only applies to tenants who have rented the property for less than a year. 
  • 60-Day Notice to Quit. This eviction notice is similar to the 30-Day Notice to Quit. However, unlike it, the 60-Day Notice to Quit only applies to tenants who have resided on the property for more than a year. 
  • 3-Day Notice to Quit. You must use this notice to end the lease of a tenant who commits a serious lease violation. Examples of such violations include excessive property damage and unauthorized subletting of the unit. 
  • 3-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This applies to tenants who commit minor lease violations. It gives tenants 3 calendar days to either fix the issue or move out. Examples of curable violations include keeping unauthorized pets, failure to maintain their rented premises, and failure to keep the unit in a clean and habitable manner. 

You must serve an eviction notice in a particular manner lest the tenant uses that as a defense against their eviction. 

one person handing a paper to another

The following are the options you have. 

  • Delivering the eviction notice to the tenant in person. 
  • Mailing a copy of the notice to the tenant via regular or certified mail. 
  • Leaving a copy of the notice on the front door, or any other conspicuous place. 
  • Leaving a copy with an adult member of the household. 
  • Posting the notice in a conspicuous area AND then mailing a copy to the tenant. 

Tenant Defenses

Tenants in California have a right to defend themselves against an eviction. When filing an answer, a tenant may give any of the following defenses:

  • You gave them an improper notice. The notice, for instance, didn’t mention the period the tenant had to fix a violation or move out. 
  • You failed to take care of their rented premises and that made them withhold rent payments. Tenants in California have a right to withhold rent when the landlord fails to respond to repairs that violate the tenant’s right to live in a habitable property. 
  • You accepted partial rent payment from the tenant. 
  • The eviction was retaliation to the tenant exercising their rights. 
  • You attempted to evict the tenant through ‘self-help’ means. 
  • The eviction was discriminatory. 

Writ of Execution

If the judgment is in your favor, either through a default judgment or a successful hearing, the court will provide you with a writ of execution. 

someone sealing a moving box

This is the tenant’s final notice to leave. They must do so within 5 days or else risk being forcefully evicted from the property by the sheriff. 

Hiring a Property Management Company

Do you still have more questions regarding the California eviction process? If you do, Westside Property Management can help. We’re a full-service property management company that can help you in all aspects of property management. From finding tenants, to collecting rent, to maintaining your property. Get in touch today to learn more!

This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.