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California Eviction Process

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Evicting a tenant in California is a process that has many steps. Before an eviction takes place, a landlord has to terminate the tenancy.

The termination calls for giving the tenant a written notice. There are different types of termination notices depending on the particular case.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll go over the key points of the eviction laws in California.

Valid Reasons for Evicting a Tenant?

You need to have a solid legal ground to evict a tenant. In California, you can only evict a renter in the following situations:

  • Breach of the lease agreement
  • Tenant poses a serious nuisance to others
  • Property damage or destruction
  • Failure to pay rent
  • Illegal activities are undertaken on the property

Although it’s almost impossible to predict that the aforementioned situations will happen to you, there are simple ways to avoid bad tenants. This will surely lower your chances of having to deal with these situations.

How to Evict a Tenant in California

The first moves a landlord makes are critical. Any legal errors may result in the whole eviction process falling apart without results. Landlords need to notify their tenants of the legal reason for the eviction.

The notices are “Notice to Vacate” or “Notice to Quit”. Which type of notice to use depends on the underlying reason for the eviction. If the tenant can take clear actions to fix the issues, landlords can give the “Notice to Comply” (Curable).


Curable means that the renter can make things right in order not to vacate the property. For example, the tenant could pay any outstanding rent due. As a landlord, you could use the help of a mediator to resolve the dispute.

Planning a termination without a cause?

Landlords have to provide at least a 30-day notice to terminate month-to-month tenants. If the renters have lived in the rental unit for at least one year, they have to receive at least a 60-day notice.

Any material breaches call for a 3-day notice.

Let’s have a closer look at the notices.

  • 3-Day Notice to Cure. The landlord can use this in the case of a lease or rental agreement violation. The notice alerts the tenant that they have three days for correcting the violation. If the correction isn’t carried out, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
  • 3-Day Unconditional Quit Notice. This notice is used when the tenant has committed serious violations. The tenant has to move out of the rental property within three days after receiving the notice. There is no time to fix the violation. This is a notice following substantial damage, subletting, illegal activities, or nuisance.
  • 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent. The landlord can give this notice when the tenant fails to pay the rent. This notice informs the tenant that they have three days to pay the full amount due. If there’s no payment within the 3-day period, the landlord may proceed to file an eviction lawsuit with the court.

Rules Regarding the Notice?

The tenant needs to be served with notice. There are a few possibilities for this:

  • Obtain a court order that allows you to attach the notice on the renter’s front door.
  • Deliver the notice directly to the tenant.
  • Leave the notice with a person who’s over 18 years old at the rental property.

What Happens If the Tenant Fails to Fix the Issue?

If the tenant fails to fix the issue within the specified time frame, the landlord can file a civil suit. It’s called an unlawful detainer action.


For this, the landlord needs to use three forms:

  • Civil Case Cover Sheet
  • Unlawful Detainer Complaint
  • Prejudgment Right of Possession Form

The forms need to be 100% accurate. The first two have to be submitted to the courthouse in the same country with the rental property. The Prejudgment Right of Possession is relevant when someone not listed on the rental agreement lives on the premises.

When a landlord serves the unnamed occupants with a Prejudgment Right of Possession together with a copy of the complaints and summons, they are instantly defendants in the lawsuit.

What Happens After Filing the Documents with the Court?

In general, it takes about two months before the tenant is evicted. However, the tenant may decide to oppose the eviction in court. The common defences for tenants include the following:

  • Landlord failed to maintain the rental property.
  • Procedural mistakes, such as mistakes in serving the notice.
  • Landlord discriminating against the tenant in some way.

The only way to legally evict a tenant is winning an eviction lawsuit or an unlawful detainer suit. It isn’t legal for the landlord to personally remove any tenants from the rental property. Only a sheriff can perform the actual eviction.

Did the tenant leave anything behind in the property?

The landlord must notify the tenant of the abandoned personal items. Then they have to wait for at least 15 days for a reclaim. It’s 18 days if the notice was mailed.


The landlord may charge the tenant for the personal property storage. If the tenant doesn’t claim the property, the landlord can dispose of it after the notice period ends.

The Bottom Line: Eviction Laws in California

Evictions in California adhere to strict rules. Landlords need to be careful to follow all the procedures required by law. Failure to comply with the rules may invalidate the eviction.

These rules have been put into place in order for tenants to have enough time to find new living arrangements.

Sometimes, situations are more complex. For example, there are special protections for tenants of properties under foreclosure. In these cases, the best course of action is seeking assistance from a qualified attorney.

If the eviction process seems daunting to you, don’t hesitate to contact a professional property management company to assist you.