A California unlawful detainer lawsuit or eviction lawsuit is a summary court procedure that allows a landlord to evict a tenant for failure to comply with an agreement in the lease or failure to pay rent when due. The lawsuit is filed when a tenant remains in the property and refuses to comply with the notice and cure the legal issue within the allotted time. The landlord in an unlawful detainer lawsuit is the “plaintiff” and the tenant is the “defendant.” In this suit, the court action moves forward very quickly and the tenant usually has a very short time to respond to during the lawsuit.
At Los Angeles Eviction Attorney, we represent both residential and commercial landlords and tenants in eviction cases. We offer our clients counseling and advocacy in every stage of the unlawful detainer process. This area of law requires extreme attention to detail in order to ensure that all procedural requirements are met. Our services include drafting the necessary Notices, preparing unlawful detainer complaints and responses, serving the defendant, requesting judgments, defending against the lawsuit, obtaining writs of possession, and having the Sheriff’s Department serve a notice to vacate. With years of experience representing both tenants and landlords, Los Angeles Eviction Attorney will work to provide the most effective representation and obtain the most favorable outcome.
The landlord must prepare and file a Summons and Complaint, which will then be served to the tenant. Once the tenant has been served with the lawsuit, he or she has five days to respond. If the tenant does not respond to the eviction lawsuit, the court can give judgment for possession, after which the case is sent to the Sherriff’s office for lockout proceedings. If the tenant files an answer and decides to fight the accusations, the case becomes a contested eviction. A tenant may choose to fight an unlawful detainer lawsuit if he/she believes there are serious habitability problems with the property, there are no violations of the lease agreement or there are conspicuous deficiencies in the paperwork submitted by the landlord. Therefore, if a tenant responds, the landlord must request a trial in order to proceed with the case.
A trial will then be held and the judge will hear and decide the case typically within 20 days following the tenant’s response. The trial provides an opportunity for the parties to explain their case and present their evidence. The more evidence provided by one party, the more likely the judge will rule in favor of that party. Witness testimonies may also come in handy in proving an individual’s side of the story.
If there’s evidence to suggest additional unknown people living in the premises, a landlord may choose to serve a pre-judgment claim of right to possession. This covers all the unknown occupants and puts them on notice that they ought to file a response to the court. A pre-judgment claim tends to take away the ability to delay the eviction once the case is concluded, by filing a third-party claim. However, serving a pre-judgment claim of possession delays the case by 10 days. Before serving a pre-judgment claim of possession, it is best to analyze the case and evaluate all criteria.
If the tenant has a good defense, the eviction will not proceed. This means that the tenant will not have to move out of the rental unit if the court decides in his/her favor, and the landlord may be required to pay court costs. The landlord may also be ordered to pay attorney’s fees if the tenant was represented by an attorney and if the rental agreement contains a clause that covers attorney’s fees. Los Angeles Eviction Attorney can represent either the landlord or tenant in court when the trial date arrives.
Writ of Possession in a California Eviction Case
If the landlord prevails in court at the conclusion of the trial, a writ of possession will be issued by the court. This is an order requiring the Sheriff to go to the property and post a 5-day notice to have the tenant voluntarily move out of the rental unit. If the tenant fails to vacate within the allotted time, the writ of possession authorizes the Sheriff to return to the property and physically lock out the tenant and restore possession of the rental unit to the landlord. It’s only at this instance that the landlord has the permission to remove and change locks or prevent the tenant from accessing the property.
The Sherriff will not move or accept liability for any personal belongings that the tenant may leave on the premises. The tenant has 15 days from the day he/she is locked out to come back and collect the items. If he or she doesn’t retrieve his/her stuff within that time, the landlord can auction it off. However, California eviction law prohibits the landlord from disposing or selling the property if it is valued at or above $700. Instead, the tenant should be provided with a Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property. The notice should then be given to the tenant informing them that they should pick the property within 18 days of mailing, failure to which the items will be sold. Conversely, if the property is valued below $700 and not reclaimed in 18 days from when the notice is deposited in the mail, it may be sold, kept, or destroyed without further notice.
If the eviction is based on the payment’s failure to pay rent, the landlord may be awarded any unpaid rent. The landlord may also be awarded court costs, damages, and attorney’s fees if the landlord was represented by an attorney and the lease contains a clause for attorney’s fees. In addition, the court may also award the landlord up to $600 if the tenant acted maliciously in not moving out as ordered by the court.
An unlawful detainer trial is a form of hybrid criminal-civil proceeding. In this case, judgment against the tenant will mean that the tenant is found not just liable but also “guilty.” The conviction will be reported on the tenant’s credit report for up to 10 years and future landlords may also see the record in their background checks.