California Evictions: Tips, Legal Resources for Tenants

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The keys to the house are on the eviction notice received in the mail.

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Getting an eviction notice can seem daunting, but it doesn’t mean packing up and leaving your rental property.

The Sacramento Bee consulted with attorney Leela Githesatani of the National Housing Law Project in San Francisco and Judicial Division of California for step-by-step instructions on what to do if you receive an eviction notice in California.

“Your first step is to sit down,” Githesatani said, “and actually read it, not ignore it, and understand what it’s asking you.”

How the eviction process works in California

If the landlord does not deliver the notice properly or does not include information required for the type of evictionAccording to the website of the Jewish Chapter of California, a court can invalidate the notice.

Before we get into the weeds of what to do when you receive an eviction notice from your California rental property, here’s what the process looks like in a nutshell:

Once you receive an eviction notice in California, here are the steps:

  1. Read the eviction notice and understand what it requires.
  2. Talk to your landlord to see if there is room to negotiate.
  3. If there is no room for negotiation, move out of the property before the eviction notice expires.
  4. If you don’t leave before the eviction notice expires, the landlord can sue you.
  5. If you do not file an answer with the court within five days, you will be served with a notice to vacate the property and you will have five days to move out.
  6. If the answer is filed on time, the judge will make a decision.

Throughout the eviction process, be sure to document and get everything in writing, including waivers with your landlord, Githesatani said. For example, if a landlord gives a tenant three days’ notice to vacate to pay rent or move out, the tenant may be able to negotiate a time after the notice period to pay the landlord.

Lease and Free Legal Aid Programs in California

Rental assistance programs were plentiful in the early years of COVID-19, but have since dried up, Githesatani said. Here is a list of rental assistance programs still available in California, as well as free legal assistance programs to consider when going through the eviction process:

I received an eviction notice in California

Before the landlord can start eviction proceedingsthey must give the tenant a written eviction notice detailing 1) why they want to end the tenancy and 2) how much time they have to comply or move out.

All written eviction notices are accompanied by either a three-day, 30-day, 60-day or 90-day period.

Some eviction notices ask the tenant to simply move out. When finding out the expiration datestart counting every day from the day after receiving the message, excluding weekends and holidays.

Another type of eviction notice asks the tenant to notify the tenant or fix a problem that violates the terms of the lease in order to stop the eviction process. If the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is moved to the next business day.

Evictions without notice

Here are a few situations, according to the California Jewish Chapter website a landlord can evict a tenant without notice:

  • If the tenant’s lease term has expired and the landlord does not renew it
  • If the tenant gives notice of the termination of the lease and does not leave the property
  • If the tenant works for the landlord and lives in the rented property as part of the job

Once a tenant receives an eviction notice, they have several options: talk to the landlord, do what the notice requires, move out, or do nothing. When there is time to negotiate with the landlord, be sure to document and communicate everything in writing.

If the tenant can comply with the requirements in the notice, they must notify their landlord and let them know in writing when they will be back in compliance with the terms of the lease.

In other cases, the best thing a tenant can do is move out to avoid eviction based on their credit history.

“A lot of these moves are trying to avoid the landlord from filing an eviction notice,” Githesatani said. “Because it can really affect a tenant’s record.”

I received a subpoena in California

The eviction process and its timeline can vary depending on where you are in California, Githesatani said.

If the eviction notice deadline has passed and the tenant has not done what the notice says and is still in the apartment, the landlord can continue with the eviction process. The judge can then order the tenant to move out and possibly pay the landlord money.

“A landlord should never just throw someone out of the premises, change the locks, kick them out of the premises,” Githesatani said. “They have to go through the eviction process.”

Once a landlord files an eviction lawsuit, also known as an unlawful detainer, it is now considered a legal matter.

The tenant will receive a summons or form SUM-130as well as a sheet entitled “Complaint” and another entitled “Mandatory Plaintiff’s Cover Letter and Additional Approvals” or form UD-101.

If the tenant does not respond to the eviction notice within five days, the landlord may request a test date. If the deadline passes and the tenant does nothing, they will receive a notice to vacate from the sheriff and have five days to vacate the property.

If a tenant misses the deadline, they lose the default suit, Githesatani said.

The eviction timeline varies depending on which notice the tenant receives, but it “can take about a month” from the time the unlawful detainer is filed to when the tenant can appear before a judge.

Remember: If a tenant is involved in an eviction proceeding and has met all the deadlines, they do not have to move out of the rental property until the judge makes a decision.

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Brianna Taylor is a feature reporter for The Sacramento Bee. Brianna also reported in Missouri and Maryland. She graduated from Morgan State University.

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