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Evicting a Roommate in California

To evict your roommate in California, you need to start by giving them a three-day notice to cure or quit. If they ignore you, then you'll have to begin an unlawful detainer action. Before you do any of these things, make sure that your situation allows you to kick them out, and get familiar with the basics of state eviction laws.

In This Article

Who can evict a roommate
Legal reasons to evict
Steps to evict a roommate

In California, whether or not you can evict your roommate is situational. It depends on you and your roommate's status as tenants, which is determined by whose name is mentioned on the lease:

We're both on the lease

If you and your roommate are both named on the lease, you are considered co-tenants and both pay rent to the landlord. You cannot evict a co-tenant. Only a landlord can evict someone who is named on a lease, and can only do so with just cause. In this situation, your best option is to let the landlord know what the problem is. If your roommate is not paying rent, doing something illegal in the unit, or damaging the apartment, your landlord may step in to evict them for you.

I'm the only one on the lease

If you are the only one on the lease, you can probably evict your roommate. That's true even if you have a separate sublease agreement with your roommate, who's subletting from you. You're able to evict in these situations because you're legally considered your roommate's landlord. Follow the same eviction procedure as a landlord performing a typical eviction.

The only exception is if they pay rent to the landlord directly even though they're not on the lease—in this scenario, they are considered your co-tenant. They earn access to the same rights as a person named on your lease, making eviction less likely.

They're on the lease, but I'm not

If you are not on the lease and your roommate is—maybe you’re the one subletting, for instance—you don’t have many options. Your roommate has master tenant status, meaning the lease exists only between the landlord and your roommate, and you are their subtenant. You can’t evict them.

There is no written agreement

If you and your roommate have no written agreement, but they've paid rent to the landlord or lived with you for more than 30 days, then they have established a month-to-month tenancy. When your roommate has month-to-month tenancy, California state law says that you can evict them by serving 30 or 60 days' notice without any reasoning. Certain cities require just cause be provided to month-to-month tenants if they are living in a rent-controlled or subsidized housing program.

In California, you are not always required by law to give a reason for an eviction. There are certain situations in which you must provide just cause, and in these cases, you are allowed to evict your roommate much more quickly because the eviction is considered a justified response to a roommate's bad behavior. If your roommate does any of the following things, the law has your back in the eviction and you are able to give only three days notice.

  • Not paying rent
  • Violating the rental agreement in any other way
  • Damaging the property
  • Seriously interfering with other tenants
  • Committing any act of violence against other tenants of the property
  • Using the unit in an illegal way
  • Committing drug-related crime
  • Committing weapons-related crime
  • Using the property for dogfighting or cockfighting

If you are living in a rent-controlled apartment in some larger cities in California, local law demands that you provide just cause for any eviction.

If you are pursuing eviction with thirty or sixty days notice, you typically don't need to provide just cause. Remember that eviction can never be performed for a reason that is retaliatory or discriminatory.

Steps to evict a roommate in California

How much notice do I have to give?

All evictions must begin with written notice. Written notice must always state that the tenant has a certain number of days until the tenancy will be terminated. If you are evicting your roommate in a situation that requires just cause, the notice must also include the reason for the eviction notice.

If your roommate signed a written sublease agreement with you, you must have just cause for eviction and must provide only three days' written notice.

If you are terminating a month-to-month tenancy without cause, you must give either thirty or sixty days' written notice, depending on how long your roommate has lived there. If your roommate has lived in the unit with you for over a year, you must provide at least sixty days' notice. If they have lived in the unit with you for less than one year, you must provide only thirty days' notice.

It's essential that you serve notice exactly how the law demands. If you don't follow the law when serving your roommate with notice, your eviction case can be dismissed by a judge and you'll have to start the whole process over.

There are four different methods of service allowed by law when you are beginning the eviction process against your tenant. The notice must be served by you, your agent, or anyone over the age of eighteen. The instructions for each method are extremely specific and detailed, but in general you have to start by trying to deliver the notice to your roommate in person by handing it to them.

Can my roommate do anything to stop the eviction after I serve notice?

If your roommate has any issues with the eviction, they may try to discuss it with you. If you are determined to evict them, you typically do not have to give them the chance to make things right - unless you have served them a three-day notice for unpaid rent and they are offering to pay it. In that case, you will have to accept the rent payment and evict for another reason later on. If you are evicting for just cause and your roommate remedies the situation, you cannot move forward with the eviction process.

How do I file eviction papers?

After serving notice and allowing the notice period to pass, you must file paperwork with the court to begin an unlawful detainer suit against your roommate. This process is identical to the process that landlords go through when evicting a tenant.

What happens in court?

Your roommate may file an answer with the court in an attempt to fight the eviction. Regardless, the court will set a trial date to take place within the next twenty days. The trial will not have a jury; eviction lawsuits are decided only by a judge. The burden of proof is on you, so all of the documentation you have collected come into play here. Provide any evidence of the reason for the eviction. It is up to you to prove that you followed the correct steps for serving notice. If you failed to serve notice correctly, the case can be thrown out, and you will have to start over from the beginning.

If the judge rules in your favor, the sheriff will give your roommate notice that they have five days to move out. If they need to stay longer, they can file a stay of execution with the court to request more time, but they must pay rent for any extra days they are allowed to stay by the court.

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