What is the Eviction Process in California?

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Renting property in California is a common practice. Residents of the state rely on the flexibility of not being tied down to a mortgage payment or the burden of trying to sell owned property. With regard to tenants' rights, however, landlords often have the upper hand and can evict tenants in certain circumstances.

1 Initial Process

Whether the eviction process is initiated because of failure to pay rent or damage to property, a landlord in California must notify the tenant to vacate the property in a certain time period (usually 30 days) or risk being forcibly removed. If the reason for eviction is failure to pay rent, the landlord has the option to provide a three-day notice requiring the tenant either to pay rent or vacate.

2 Legal Action

A tenant's failure to leave the property within the notice period can result in legal action in California. Most parties prefer to take the issue to small claims court, although this process may take longer than the landlord would like.

3 Foreclosure

Foreclosure on a building can lead to eviction of a tenant when the tenant does not have a fixed expiration date on his lease in California. In these instances, the new owner must give 30 days notice for tenants who have lived on the property for less than a year and must provide 60 days notice for tenants who have lived on the property for more than a year.

4 Summons and Complaint

A summons and complaint can be served after the eviction-notice period expires, allowing the landlord to take the tenant to Superior Court. The landlord must file a complaint document and have the county clerk issue a summons. The complaint describes the parties involved, any back rent owed, and the date the tenant was supposed to have vacated.

5 Default

If the tenant failes to respond to the landlord's summons and complaint within five days, the case automatically defaults in favor of the landlord. The tenant is prevented from being involved in the legal proceedings, and the clerk can grant the landlord immediate repossession of the property. This ruling does not determine the amount of money still legally owed by the tenant; it is primarily a means to restore ownership to the landlord. If the tenant does respond within five days, the case goes to trial.