Eviction Process In California
For those curious about it, the eviction process in California is fortunately pretty easy to understand. Designed as a legal route for landlords to evict tenants for breaching their contracts, the process is designed to be speedy, to-the-point, and above all fair. In California, the eviction process almost always goes through one of the state’s county courthouses. For more details on how the legal eviction proceedings occur and what their outcomes mean to tenants, read on.
- In order to legally evict a tenant, a landlord must file a legal case. Any attempts by the landlord to forcibly remove or lock out a tenant they are trying to evict are considered illegal. In fact, if it is found that the landlord engaged in such activities, the tenant may have grounds to sue them for damages. In California, the only legally recognized form of eviction occurs through a specific type of court case called an “unlawful detainer” suit. When the tenant files this suit, the official eviction process begins.
- Once the tenant is served with a complaint and summons, they have five days to respond. If a California tenant wants to have a chance to stop the eviction process, a response must come within this short time span. When a summons is ignored, the landlord can file for a “default judgment” in which the tenant automatically loses the case without a chance to defend him or herself.
- The tenant has the right to a hearing in any situation. In the California eviction process, a tenant that feels he or she is being unjustly evicted has the right to bring their case before a judge. Because an eviction case is considered a short summary case in legal terms, this will generally occur within a month of the case’s filing date. In the hearing, both sides are given the chance to explain their side of the story before a judge, who makes the final decision relatively quickly.
- The judge’s decision dictates what happens next. If the judge decides in favor of the plaintiff, the final step in the eviction process is initiated. It’s called a “writ of possession”, and is basically an order for the county sheriff to remove unwilling tenants from their rented home. Losing tenants may also be liable for unpaid rent, the landlord’s legal fees, and in some cases even punitive damages. In cases decided in favor of the defendant, he or she will not be evicted. Additionally, the tenant may be able to recover legal fees from the landlord that filed the suit.