The California Eviction Laws & Process: An Overview

California Eviction Laws

Landlords in California must follow certain rules and steps outlined by California law when they need to evict a tenant. The California eviction laws state that a landlord can evict or force the removal of a tenant renting their premises. This could be due to several factors, such as non-payment of rent or violation of the rental lease.   

This article explains the process, why landlords can evict tenants, how to give notice, and what happens during the eviction.  

Reasons For California Eviction Notice 

The law mentions the exact requirements that need to be fulfilled for a landlord to end a tenancy. These are: 

1. Non-Payment Of Rent Even After Receiving Notice 

A landlord can evict a tenant if they fail to pay the rent on time and only after the stipulated grace period has passed. Even so, the landlord then has to serve a 3-Day Pay Rent or Quit notice. If the tenant pays the rent within this notice period, the landlord cannot evict the tenant. 

2. Intentional Damage 

If a tenant is found carrying out illegal activities on the property, or if they sublet the house, trouble the other residents at the rental unit, or cause irreparable damages to the property, the landlord can issue a 3-Day Unconditional Quit Notice and immediately evict the tenants after that. 

3. Violation Of Rental Lease 

A landlord can send an eviction notice in California if the tenants violate the terms and conditions mentioned in their rental agreement. This violation could be property damage, staying with a pet despite a ‘no pets allowed’ clause, or even exceeding the number of people allowed to stay on the property. 

4. The Lease Has Ended 

If the tenants stay on the property even after the rental lease agreement ends, the landlord can start the eviction process. Wondering how long does the eviction process take in California? It can take 30 to 45 days, sometimes even longer. 

Terminating a California Tenancy Without Cause  

The rules for terminating a lease without cause vary depending on whether the tenancy is month-to-month or a fixed term. 

 1. Month-to-Month Tenancy 

If you’re renting month-to-month in California and you’ve been there for less than a year, your landlord needs to give you a written notice 30 days before they want you to leave. They don’t have to provide a specific reason, but they can’t do it for discriminatory reasons.  

If you’ve lived there for over a year with a month-to-month agreement, the landlord must give you a 60-day written notice. In both cases, the notice should say that your tenancy will end at the end of the notice period, and you should move out by then. 

2. Fixed-Term Tenancy 

If you’re renting a place in California for more than a month at a time, the landlord usually can’t ask you to leave without a good reason until the lease term is over. They don’t have to notify you to move out when the lease ends unless they say they must.  

However, if you’ve lived in the property for a year and the landlord decides not to renew the lease, they can’t do it without a good reason. If the reason is your fault (like not paying rent), they must give you a three-day notice to either pay or leave. If you can fix something (like having an unauthorized roommate), they give you a three-day notice to fix it or leave. If it’s a serious problem that can’t be fixed (like causing a public nuisance), they give you three days’ notice to leave without fixing it.  

If the reason is not your fault (a “no-fault” reason), the landlord has to compensate you according to the law. 

California Eviction Process 

Here’s a summary of the eviction process: 

Step 1: The landlord finds the tenant violating any of the above terms and conditions and serves the tenant a written notice that mentions a desired action, which needs to be done by a deadline. For example, pay pending rent in 3 days, evict the premises, fix the damaged property within 15 days, or evict the premises, etc. 

Step 2: If the tenant fails to do so in the given period, the landlord starts evicting a tenant in California by filing a case in court. The landlord then serves a copy of the court papers to the tenant. 

Step 3: After this, the tenant gets a few days to file a response in court; here, they can state their side of the story and ask for a trial date. 

Step 4: If the tenant doesn’t respond to the court papers during this time, the landlord can request the judge to decide without a trial.   

Step 5: After considering everything, the judge makes a decision. If the landlord wins, the tenant gets a ‘Notice to Vacate’ and must vacate the property within the duration mentioned in the notice. If the tenant wins, they get to stay on.  

If the tenant wins, the landlord cannot force them to leave by implementing unethical measures such as turning off the power and water supply, throwing out the belongings, changing the locks etc. 

What Happens When a Landlord Doesn’t Follow California Eviction Rules?  

Landlords in California need to follow all the rules and steps set by the law when they want to evict a tenant. If the landlord makes a mistake, like not giving enough notice, the court might cancel the request to remove the tenant, and the tenant can stay in the rental for a while. Then, the landlord must start the process all over again. 

Landlords should never try to evict a tenant on their own, like changing the locks or removing the tenant or their stuff. The only legal way to make a tenant leave is by winning a special lawsuit called an unlawful detainer. Even if the landlord wins, only a law enforcement officer is allowed to remove the tenant. Breaking these rules can lead to serious consequences – landlords might get sued by the tenant or even face criminal charges. 

What Happens to a Tenant’s Abandoned Property After an Eviction?  

Following the eviction of a tenant, the landlord may discover that the tenant has abandoned personal belongings in the rental unit. The landlord must make efforts to inform the tenant about the abandoned property and provide a minimum of 15 days for the tenant to retrieve it (18 days if the notice was sent by mail). The landlord can bill the tenant for the expenses of storing the property. If the tenant fails to reclaim the belongings within the specified period, the landlord can dispose of them as outlined in the notice.  

DisclaimerThis blog intends to inform you about the California eviction process. It should not be considered as legal advice. Please seek legal counsel if you need help understanding the California eviction laws further. Schedule a 15-minute consultation call with Beach Front Property Management experts for any other property-related guidance. 

Trevor Henson

Trevor Henson is an experienced entrepreneur (10+ highly-successful start-ups) and property investor with a demonstrated history of building and leading teams in investment property management environments, maximizing returns for property owners, and optimizing properties through construction management and re-positioning. He…
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Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

The eviction process in California can take 30 - 45 days, or longer. The time starts from when the eviction court forms are delivered to the resident.

The proper and legal process for eviction involves filing a lawsuit and waiting for a court order for the Sheriff to conduct the eviction. Landlords are prohibited to change locks, cut-off power, or take away personal belongings to compel a tenant to leave their residences.

You need to have a valid reason to serve a resident an eviction notice. Before sending the resident a legal notice, try to sort things out amongst yourselves. Serving a notice means you should ideally be handing over the notice personally. If the resident refuses to take the notice, you can leave it on the ground near them. If you cannot deliver the notice in person, you can opt for a "substituted service” where you can appoint someone who is competent and is 18 years or older to deliver the notice. If that’s also not possible, you can “nail and mail” the notice by pinning it to the resident’s door and mailing a copy to them.

The Sheriff first serves a 5-Day Notice to Vacate within three business days after receipt of the writ. After the expiration of the 5-day notice, uniformed deputies come and remove anyone who remains on the property.

There’s not much you can do at this point. You can try to ask the court for a stay of eviction before the sheriff visits you.