Eviction is both stressful and scary, and no tenant wants to be in such a situation. Being one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the state, Los Angeles has the highest number of eviction issues in California. The good thing is that there are several legal protections in place that safeguards the rights of tenants in the city and the state in general. A good Los Angeles Eviction Attorney, who understands tenant laws and eviction protections is essential to work with if you are facing an eviction.
Legal Definition of Eviction
Eviction entails the removal of a tenant from premises in which he/she lives or from a property in which he/she has interest in. The landlord does this removal either through court action or by reentry upon the said premise. The process by which the property owner may seek eviction of his/her tenant is an action of Ejectment. An illegal detainer is a legal action that is brought by the landlord to obtain the removal of a tenant.
There are many reasons that make a landlord evict a tenant, with the most common one being a breach of contract or failure to abide by rental agreements on the part of the tenant. The tenant may, for instance, not be paying rent as per the agreement signed with the landlord, or he/she may be overstaying their lease after the term of their lease has expired.
In most states, the law requires the landlord to produce a notice of eviction, which should be done within a specified period. Even if they are the owner of the property, they are not allowed to remove a tenant on such grounds as personal misunderstandings.
Common Reasons a Tenant can Be Evicted
A landlord can only remove a tenant for causes that are provided in the state's landlord-owner law. These laws vary from one State to the other, but the most common causes for eviction in California include:
The use of the property for illegal matters
A landowner is allowed to file for the eviction of a renter if the renter is illegally using the property, for instance, if they are using the premise to run an unlawful business. If the said property is rented out only for residential purposes, it should not be used for any business or commercial purposes, even if the business being conducted is legal. A tenant could also be evicted from a property if he/she tries to dispense any kinds of drugs, narcotics, and any other illegal substance within the property.
Safety and health violations
If the premise has a safety or health damage that must be fixed, a landlord may not have any other option than to evict his/her tenants from the premises. In most cases, some of these problems cannot be remedied while tenants are still residing on the property, which is why the law allows the landlord to file for eviction of tenants on such grounds. Even on such grounds, the landlord is required to provide the tenants with a Quit Notice long before the day he/she intends to evict them. The landlord is also expected to give relocation assistance to tenants in such circumstances.
If the property is being removed from the rental market
The current tenants of a particular property can be evicted if the landlord wants to remove his/her property from the rental market for the likely future. In California, this is done through the Ellis Act, which requires landlords to plan to retire their properties from residential use for a period of at least ten years. To do this, the landlord must give the tenant a notice long before the eviction date. For renters who are over 62 years of age, and those that are disabled, a one year notice will give them sufficient time to plan for their relocation. Other tenants must be given a notice of about 120 days to relocate.
In addition to the said notices, the landlord should file a notice to pull the property from the Rent Board. He/she will also be required to pay each tenant an amount of money for relocation, which in California, is different every year.
If the landlord wants to move in
Even if the rules vary from one state to another, it is legal for a landlord to remove a tenant for him/her to step into his/her property. The property owner can also do this if they want a close family member to take over the rental unit. A Notice to Quit for this kind of eviction must be filed about two months in advance. In addition to that, the landlord must cater to the tenant’s relocation expenses.
Breach of lease agreements
If a renter goes against some of the terms in the lease agreements that they signed and agreed to abide by, the landlord may find a good reason to evict them from his/her property. Before filing for their eviction, the landlord must present them with a Notice to Quit. A judge will be the one to determine if the landlord’s reasons are enough grounds for removal. Some of the popular breaches to lease agreements in California are:
- Violation of pet policy: If the landlord has no pet policy but the tenant was living with a pet in the property, the landlord may file for their eviction;
- Living with unnamed tenants: Since the information of all the people who will be living in the rental unit are provided in the rental agreement, the landlord may file for a tenant’s eviction if they are living with additional people;
- Failure to pay a legal increase in rent: Landlords can lawfully increase their tenant’s rent every year by a given percentage. If they refuse to agree to such an increase, he/she may file for their eviction.
Eviction Processes in California
California law is very protective of both tenants and landlords. For the tenants, landlords are required to terminate a tenancy before evicting their tenants legally. To be able to do this, a landlord must provide the tenant a written notice first, as required by the state law. Depending on the reason for the removal, the tenant is expected to vacate or change his/her behavior by the set date. If the eviction was due to a violation of a lease agreement, for example, the landlord will expect the tenant to adhere to the signed contract or move out. If this does not happen, the property owner can now file for an eviction claim or an illegal detainer lawsuit. In instances where lease violations are more severe, the landlord may not provide the tenant an option of rectifying the problematic behavior.
Just like in other states, the law in California provides the exact requirements for landlords to end a rental agreement. There are also various types of procedures and notices that should be used for the different situations and reasons for termination of a tenancy agreement.
Termination Notice with a Cause
Landlords can end a tenancy earlier in California and remove a tenant for various reasons such as those explained above. But even in such a situation, a written notice must be given to the tenant by the landlord. The length of time to be provided in the notice will depend on the landlord's cause for the dissolution. Here are some general eviction notices in California:
- A 3-day notice to pay or quit: This kind of warning can be used in case the tenant has not been paying rent as per the signed agreement between him/her and the landlord. In such a case, the landlord is allowed to give the renter a three-day warning for them to pay the full rent or move out. When served with such a warning, the tenant should automatically know that they have at least three days to make the rent payment in full. However, if the renter is not able to do that, they should move out on their own accord or the landlord will file for eviction claim with a court of law after those three days;
- A three-day notice to remedy: This is the kind of warning that is given to tenants who violate a rental or lease agreement. When this happens, the landlord is required by law to provide a three-day warning for the tenant to rectify his/her behavior or move out. If the renter fails to remedy the violation as per the lease or rental agreement, the landlord will be forced to file for eviction to force the tenant out of their property;
- A three-day quick notice with no conditions: This is the kind of notice tenants receive when they commit a severe sort of violation that is against their lease or rental agreement. The notice, in this case, will inform the tenant that he/she is required to clear from the premises within three days after the issuance of the notice. With this kind of notice, tenants are not given an option to rectify the violation and stay. If they do not vacate within the given three days, the property owner will go to court and file a lawsuit to evict the tenant.
There are certain situations that landlords can only use this kind of notice:
- When a renter has caused extensive destruction to the premise
- When the tenant has sublet the property and hence, violated the rental or lease agreement
- When the renter has been entangled in some unlawful activity within the property
Termination Notice without a Cause
There are various types of termination notices without a cause, based on whether the occupancy agreement is a fixed-term or a month-to-month.
For the month-to-month tenancy agreement and the tenant has been in that property for less than a year, the landlord is required by law to give a written eviction notice of at least 30 days. If, on the other hand, the tenant has been living in that rental unit for more than a year, the property owner must give a 60-day written notice to terminate the agreement. The warnings in both cases must notify the tenant when the tenancy agreement will expire so that the tenant is aware of when they are expected to clear from the property.
The fixed-term tenancy agreements are those that cover a much longer time than the month-to-month contract. For such transactions, the landlord is not allowed to end the tenancy unless it is the expiration of the given term, or for a valid reason. Under normal circumstances, the property owner will not provide any notice for eviction, unless if the agreement asks for it. If the tenancy agreement was going for a term of one year, for instance, the landlord does not have to give notice for eviction if the tenant has not applied for agreement renewal or if the lease agreement does not require it.
Eviction in Los Angeles
In addition to the above state legal requirements, tenants living in Los Angeles have additional protections against eviction. The laws under LAMC (Los Angeles Municipal Law), for example, the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) contained in Chapter 15 protect LA tenants. These specific laws apply to those family units that were constructed before 1st October 1978. To discover whether they are protected under these laws, tenants can check up with the Housing Department of Los Angeles or with their Real Estate Lawyer.
Under this protection (RSO), tenants have been given stricter eviction controls. They cannot, for instance, be evicted with a thirty or sixty-day notice as provided in the California laws. In Los Angeles, such an eviction notice will not be legal under Section 151.09 of LAMC. Some of the main differences between California rules and the Municipal Code include:
- The Rent Control Limits in the Los Angeles Municipal Code contradicts the Rent Increases in California Laws. The State Laws requires a one-month notice for any rent increase not exceeding 10% of the present-day rate and a 2-month notice for rent increases above 10%. The City Municipal Code only allows a 3% annual increase on rent, though it enables other increases including a 1% increment for those landlords paying utilities;
- In the State, a minimum of 30 days should be given as an eviction notice to a tenant residing on a particular premise for less than a year, something that is not permitted in Los Angeles under Section 151.09 of the LAMC. Similarly, the 60-day notice that landlords are required to give tenants who have stayed in their premise for over a year is not allowed under LAMC;
- Under Los Angeles RSO, there is a certain amount of rent increase that is allowed as a way to ensure that most tenants can afford it. The law controls the amount of rent increase every year, as well as evictions. The city has even stricter rules for landlords whose properties are under the protection of RSO, called cause evictions. Various causes for removal that are allowed here include:
- Tenants failing to pay rent
- Tenants who are a nuisance or those permitting nuisance in the property
- Damages to the property
- Illegal or drug activity in the premise
- Threats or announcements that show violence or crime
- Failure by the tenant to sign a new rental or lease agreement
- Tenant's failure to allow the landlord access to make repairs or improvements
- In case of an unapproved sub-tenant
- Recovery of the property in good faith, for the property owner to inhabit it, or their family, or their residential manager
- A tenant’s interference with the rental agreement by the landlord
The additional laws provided under the RSO make eviction in the City of Los Angeles a bit challenging for landlords, making it easy for tenants to keep a home. This is favorable for tenants considering the high population in the area and how difficult it is to find affordable housing.
If, indeed, there is a just cause for eviction and the landlord decides to pursue eviction of the tenant, there are stricter guidelines by RSO that the landlord has to follow for the process to be a success. Depending on the circumstances leading to eviction, the landlord may be required to pay for the relocation expenses to each tenant. Some of the conditions which may require the landlord to pay for eviction include:
- Recovery of the property in good faith
- A unit that is being permanently removed from the rental market
- If the removal was an order by the government
Note that not all situations call for the landlord to pay for relocation assistance even in the absence of a just cause for eviction. If the landlord is evicting his/her resident manager to replace with another, or he/she had provided the tenant with a written notice before the tenant signed the tenancy agreement that the property was to be converted or there are hazardous conditions that resulted from a natural disaster, the landlord will not be required to pay for the tenant's relocation.
Possible Defenses in Tenant Eviction
Fighting against eviction is allowed for tenants who feel that the evacuation is unfair. This will also delay the eviction lawsuit much longer, giving themselves some time to make plans for relocation. There are several potential defenses that a tenant can use to protect themselves from illegal eviction.
With the help of a Los Angeles Eviction attorney, you can look into some of the procedural mistakes the landlord might have committed during the eviction. If, for instance, your landlord did not serve you notice correctly, or he/she did not wait long enough before they could file for eviction lawsuit, the court may rule in your favor. To successfully remove a tenant, a landlord must carefully adhere to all the rules and regulations as provided by the California Penal Code. If proper procedures are not adhered to, the eviction will be invalid.
If you were not issued a notice before your landlord went to the court to file for eviction lawsuit, you may be able to defend yourself, with the help of your attorney, by claiming that you did not get the eviction notice. In such a case, the judge will automatically dismiss the eviction case, prompting the landlord to start the process all over again.
Your attorney could also help prove before a judge that your landlord was not able to maintain the property in a proper condition or that your landlord had discriminated against you in any way. These two defenses will, however, not be able to stop a justified eviction and so, you may have to vacate the rental unit eventually. The good thing is that they delay the matter a little bit, buying you enough time to reorganize and move out.
In a self-help kind of eviction, where a landlord is trying to force the tenant to move out of a rental property indirectly, the law allows the tenant to sue his/her landlord. Self-help eviction is done through changing the locks on doors and windows or shutting off the utilities in the rental unit. With the help of an attorney, you can quickly win a lawsuit for damages against such a landlord.
In case of unpaid rent and you (the tenant) are able to raise the rent money by the end of the three-day notice, the landlord is not supposed to file an eviction lawsuit against you. Make sure you get a time-stamped receipt after paying the rent, for use in court in case the landlord proceeds to file for eviction.