Updated on

What California Renters Need to Know About Eviction

The laws in California make it challenging for a landlord to evict a tenant—in fact, the process can take up to 90 days.

California Real Property Law makes it easy for you to claim that you are a tenant and difficult for a landlord to legally evict tenants. A landlord may be charged with the misdemeanor of trespass and punished for imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year if he or she enters a property without the consent of a tenant in lawful possession of the property.

Can I be evicted for any reason?

No—your California landlord can only evict you for the following reasons according to the code of civil procedure:

  • Staying in your rental after the term is over without signing a new lease and without the landlord’s permission (also known as "holding over")
  • Not paying the rent that you agreed to pay for in your lease
  • If you are using the premises for illegal purposes
  • If you assign or sublet the property when the lease prohibits subleasing or assigning the property
  • If you violate any other conditions of the lease agreement

One thing to note: if you're a month-to-month tenant, your landlord is allowed to deliver a 30- or 60-day termination notice that ends your tenancy (depending on how long you've lived in the unit). This is not an eviction.

What is the eviction process like in California?

The legal eviction process involves a series of notices and court filings that all have to be executed at the right time and in the right way.

Notice to cure breach or quit

If you are being evicted because you aren’t paying your rent or breached your lease agreement in some other way, then the landlord must start by giving an opportunity to fix the problem. They’ll send you three-day notice of the lease violation and that failure to remedy the breach within three days would lead to a start of the eviction process. If the violation is correctable, including a failure to pay rent or having a pet when the lease prohibits pets, then the tenant has three days to remedy the problem, but if the violation is not correctible, then the notice is an order for you to leave within three days.

Notice to quit

Afterwards, the landlord would need to provide the tenant a thirty day notice to quit. However, if tenant has lived on the property for over one year, the notice must be extended to sixty days. In government-subsidized housing, the notice to move out is extended to ninety days. If you are being evicted in a tenancy without a lease, then your landlord will start by serving you with a notice to quit.

Unlawful Detainer

After serving you with a notice to quit your landlord will need to serve you with an "Unlawful Detainer Complaint, Summons, and Civil Case Cover Sheet." It must be:

  • Verified and include the typed or printed name of the person verifying the complaint.
  • Set forth the facts on which the your landlord seeks to recover possession and/or damages.
  • Describe the premises with reasonable certainty.
  • State the amount in default, if any.
  • State specifically the method used to serve the defendant with the notice or notices of termination upon which the complaint is based.  

They may want a judgment for rent due, or for a period of occupancy during which no rent is due they may want the fair value of use and occupancy of the premises. The unlawful detainer is directed at you, and the landlord must also file a proof of service with a court in the county where the rental property resides.

How should the summons and complaint be delivered?

If your landlord doesn’t serve you formally and get proof of the service for all of the notices they send you, then it could bungle the whole proceeding and force them to start over.

A summons must be issued on the filing of an unlawful detainer complaint, allowing you five days to respond within five days after the complaint is served. The summons and complaint must be delivered personally. If you're not at home or work when the server comes, the server is permitted to give the court papers to a competent member of the household where you live or works. However, the server is also required to mail a copy of the Summons and Complaint to the tenant at the address where the papers were left.

Code of Civil Procedure § 415.45 provides an additional method for unlawful detainer actions. If on affidavit by the plaintiff the court is satisfied that with reasonable diligence the defendant cannot be served by personal or substituted service, the court will order the summons to be posted on the premises in a manner most likely to give actual notice, and direct a copy of the summons and complaint be mailed by certified mail to the defendant at the last known address.

Once this is done, the clerk of the court will set a court date, which is usually set within ten to twenty days after the request is made.

How long does the eviction process take in California?

In total, you can expect the eviction process in California to take a maximum of 90 days:

  • Rent demand or notice cure: Wait three days
  • Notice to quit: Wait 30 or 60 days
  • Summons and Complaint Served: Wait five days
  • Response filed: Wait 10-20 days

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.