The Eviction Process
Dealing with landlords can be exhausting, especially when they are not delivering on the terms of the agreement. They could be neglecting to make repairs when you complain, hiking rents without notice, or discriminating against tenants and evicting them. The Los Angeles Eviction Attorney has handled many cases where tenants' rights were infringed upon by property owners who are used to skirting the law.
Our team of legal experts keeps abreast of California's tenant regulations and any amendments made. We have prepared this article to help you understand the eviction process in California and how we can assist you.
Valid Reasons for Evicting a Tenant in Los Angeles
The state of California permits evicting tenants under certain circumstances stated below:
- Refusal to Pay Rent
Rent is due on the first of each month, even if it's a weekend or a national holiday. This rule notwithstanding, refusing to pay rent is arguably the foremost reason for evicting tenants in Los Angeles. Some people decline to pay rent on purpose until the leasing agent reminds them while others could be going through financial misfortune. Unfortunately, losing your income is not a justifiable reason for delaying rent, and the landlord is at liberty to charge late fees.
- Violating Terms of Agreement
Some buildings come with a host of rules such as no pets, no trashing the compound, no loud music, etc. If a tenant violates the community rules, they are subject to eviction. If the lease agreement prohibits subletting, then you cannot have unnamed tenants on the property. All occupants must be formally listed in the contract.
The landlord may increase the rent by a certain percentage every year, and tenants must comply or vacate the premises. If the landlord raised rent without notice, they could not throw you out for noncompliance. The Los Angeles Eviction Attorney can help you retain the property without being taken advantage of by a greedy landlord.
- Damaging Property
Tenants can damage the apartment or premises they are renting deliberately or otherwise. For example, they could break windows, clog the drains, thus requiring extensive plumbing, destroy the paintwork, etc. Usually, tenants do a walkthrough with the leasing agent or landlord to inspect every inch of the property and document any anomalies. This exercise helps to determine who caused the damage so you – the tenant – is not asked to pay for pre-existing issues.
- Creating Disturbance
Leases usually come with a list of dos and don'ts, so tenants are fully aware of what is expected of them. Holding loud parties, honking, fighting with neighbors, and other disturbances can lead to eviction from an apartment even when you pay rent timely. The property manager or superintendent will issue a verbal warning and demand that you rectify your behavior, and if you don't, they can consider removing you.
- Doing Unlawful Activities
Growing marijuana without a permit, processing drugs, running a brothel, or other unlawful activity can trigger the eviction process. Other tenants may complain to the landlord anonymously, and if these suspicions are confirmed, the landlord has every right to terminate the lease agreement.
- Health and Safety Violations
If the rental unit failed to pass a health and safety inspection, the only recourse is to evict tenants to allow repairs and further investigation by relevant authorities. Many repairs can be done with full occupancy, but some severe hazards like lead paint or asbestos can only be remedied without tenants around.
- Misuse of Rental Facility
Using a rental property to run a business like a startup, hair salon, daycare center, or other non-residential use will violate the lease agreement. These actions also contravene the zoning ordinances of your neighborhood. The landlord may ask you to stop misusing the property or vacate the premises altogether.
- Selling Real Estate
If the owner wishes to offload the property when the market is ripe, they can issue eviction notices to tenants to allow for the sale. This eviction is known as the Ellis Act in California, and it applies when the owner wishes to retire the building from residential use for at least ten years. Elderly tenants and those with disabilities must get a notice one year in advance while the rest get 120-day notice of eviction.
Furthermore, the landlord will file a Notice of Intent to Withdraw the building from the Rent Board in California. The owner must also pay tenants a relocation amount, so they find a new place to live.
- Owner Moving In
The landlord's financial situation may change, and they may need to move in – or a family member – instead of leasing elsewhere. When this happens, the owner will issue a notice of eviction for 30 days for month-to-month leases and 60 days if the tenant has lived in the unit for at least one year.
Such evictions are subject to state laws which vary from one jurisdiction to another. In California, the law forbids evicting tenants for this reason if they have lived in the property for more than ten years. People with disabilities are also protected from such evictions, and landlords can only evict people with children after the school year.
- Staying Beyond Rental Term
Lease agreements typically state when the contract starts and when it expires. Tenants sometimes refuse to vacate the premises after the lease expires for one reason or another. They could be struggling to find a new place within their budget, or they could be stalling to avoid a rent increase. Whatever the case may be, refusing to leave is in breach of the lease agreement, and the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
Invalid Reasons for Evicting Tenants in Los Angeles
The state of California prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for personal reasons that are not covered by state laws. As a tenant, you want the assurance that the pending eviction is lawful and not driven by accusations without merit. Other invalid reasons for evicting tenants include:
- Retaliating after the tenant files a complaint against the landlord, e.g., lax in maintenance, accidental slide, and fall, health and safety regulations, etc. If a landlord attempts evicting you within three to six months of filing a complaint, a judge may see this as retaliation.
- Discriminatory eviction due to race, sexual orientation, religion, political inclinations, or belonging to a specific class is unlawful. Landlords may not be brazen enough to show prejudice, so they are likely to evict you under pretenses. If this happens, contact the Los Angeles Eviction Attorney immediately so we can stop this abuse of power.
- Withholding rent until maintenance is done cannot be grounds for removing a tenant. Landlords must fulfill their duties, such as paying the electric bill to avoid undermining their tenants' quality of life.
- Protected tenants cannot be evicted even when they refuse to pay rent or breach the lease agreement in other ways. Disabled people, elderly persons over 65, or tenants who have rented for more than a decade are classified as protected tenants. Landlords who wish to evict such people must tread lightly to avoid contravening the law.
What is a Three-Day Notice to Pay or Quit?
A landlord may issue a three-day notice asking you to pay inside this duration, and if you fail to oblige, they commence the eviction process. Typically, tenants will have this conversation with the landlord before moving in, so both sides are in the know. Whatever agreement you decide upon must be put in writing and signed by both parties to make it official.
Many eviction cases don't materialize because the landlord's attorney filed a lawsuit before the three days expired. A notice served on a Tuesday expires on Friday. If the last day (day three) falls on a court holiday, the tenant is allowed one more day to comply by paying rent or vacating the premises.
Please note, if the last day falls on a court holiday, the tenant is given an extra day to comply. The three-day notice adheres to the Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1161(2) and it must include the following information:
- The date of serving the demand to the tenant
- The name and address of the tenant
- A statement that you owe back rent and must clear the balance within three days. It must also mention the landlord's intention to file an eviction lawsuit with a Los Angeles court if you don't oblige.
- The total amount of rent due (one or more months) including fines for late payments
- The name, telephone number, and address of the landlord, and the business days and hours the person is available to receive the rent
- A certificate of service outlining how this demand was presented to the tenant.
The eviction process, or Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit, can make happen within days of issuing a notice, or it can take longer. Many tenants usually fight back even when they are unable to pay rent, or they have violated the terms of the agreement, and the eviction process can extend for weeks or months. If the tenant challenges the eviction lawsuit, and the landlord is found at fault, the court may dismiss this lawsuit. More so, the landlord may be asked to pay damages for not adhering to applicable laws in California.
The Los Angeles Eviction Attorney has witnessed many cases where landlords refused to obey the rule of law and took extreme measures like changing the locks, removing personal belongings, cutting off utilities, etc. When this happens without a court order, we can help you challenge this eviction and have them pay damages to you. Such landlords are required to pay $100 for every day they keep you from the premises or violate eviction laws.
The law accords you $2000 in restitution each time a landlord violates the terms of the agreement or fails to follow the eviction laws. For instance, if they threaten to report your immigration status or other illegal action against the tenant. Mostly, tenants have the right to enjoy the premises without being disturbed by landlords who use unorthodox methods.
Apart from the Notice to Quit, there are other forms of notices a landlord can serve as follows:
Three-Day Notice to Cure – this document applies when a tenant violates the rental agreement, so they are given three days to self-correct or risk eviction as per Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1161(3).
Three-Day Unconditional Quit Notice – this document applies when a tenant makes gross violation of the lease contract. The unconditional quit notice demands you leave within three days or risk getting an eviction lawsuit. Gross misconduct includes damaging the property, causing significant disturbance, illegal activity, or subleasing.
What is the Process of Serving Notices?
You must serve court documents properly so the recipient cannot deny receiving them. They must serve the Notice to Quit or other notices in person or place it on the ground near you if you decline. If this method is not practical, the landlord can employ substituted service by leaving the notice with a legal adult in the building or the tenant's place of work. "Nail and mail" is another option where the landlord posts the notification on your front door then mails a copy to you.
Steps for Evicting a Tenant in Los Angeles
If a tenant violates the terms of leasing a property, the owner is permitted to pursue legal action to remove the said tenant. The eviction process happens as follows:
- Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit
The first step of eviction is issuing a three-day notice, as explained above. If the tenant is adamant about vacating peacefully, the landlord files an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit at the Superior Court. In these documents, the landlord is referred to as the plaintiff, while the tenant is the defendant. This summary court process speeds things along, and the defendant is not allowed much time to respond.
Once you are served with a copy of Summons and Complaint, you will have 10 – 15 days to respond and if there is no answer, the case becomes an uncontested eviction. Either way, a judge will hear the case within twenty days. At this juncture, you need to retain an experienced eviction attorney to guide you through this contested eviction. Our lawyers understand the ins and outs of the Los Angeles court system, and we shall provide the best counsel for your case.
Your attorney will examine the details as outlined by the court documents and respond to the judge. Once the answer is given, the case officially becomes a trial. In an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit, the judge will allow both sides to present their case and accompanying discovery.
Please note, landlords must follow due process, and the eviction can only be handled by the Superior Court of the State of California. Some landlords skirt this law, hoping to intimidate tenants through self-help measures. We shall protect you from this bullying and insist on proper court procedures.
- Frivolous Motions
We have seen defendants filing answers just to buy themselves more time or merely acting in bad faith toward their landlord. The tenant may submit a series of dubious motions to block the eviction, albeit temporarily. The plaintiff must petition the court for a Summary Judgment to move things forward.
Tenants can also delay the eviction process by filing for bankruptcy. Such moves create new hurdles to navigate, not to mention the mounting paperwork that comes from pursuing Chapters 7, 11, or 13.
- Ruling in Favor of Tenant
In many cases, tenants have valid reasons to stop the eviction process. If you win, the landlord will be asked to pay damages, filing fees, and attorney fees. Funding the latter happens if the lease agreement stipulated as such and if you indeed hired a lawyer to represent you in this case.
- Writ of Possession
If the Superior Court determined that your landlord's case has merit, the eviction would proceed immediately. The court will give a Writ of Possession to order the local sheriff to remove your belongings from the apartment or house. Nonetheless, you still have five days from the day this document is served to leave on your own volition. We advise clients who have violated the terms of leasing and been found guilty to leave without further delays.
Failure to move out after the fifth day leaves the sheriff to perform their duties by taking your possessions and giving back ownership of the rental unit to the landlord. If you had refused to pay rent, the Superior Court would award the equivalent amount to the landlord. They may also get damages, court fees, and reimbursement for other expenses they incurred during this process.
Refunding attorney fees only applies if the lease agreement had stipulated that in case of any lawsuits. Furthermore, the court may determine that you acted maliciously by refusing to move up, e.g., to deny the landlord their much-deserved rental income. In such an outcome, the court will order you to pay $600 in fines, and this penalty will stay on your credit report for seven years.
- Notice to Vacate
In many cases, tenants don't respond to the Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit, and this prevents the judge from issuing a judgment of possession. If there is no response from your end, the defendant, the case goes to the sheriff's office, and they post a five-day Notice to Vacate on the front door. Physical removal of your items happens on the sixth day, and they change locks to bar you from gaining entry into the rental unit.
What to Do When Facing Eviction in Los Angeles
Once you are threatened with a Notice to Vacate, you must seek legal counsel immediately. Court cases are not easy to navigate, even when things are seemingly straightforward. The landlord is likely to hire an attorney who is adept at these procedures, and they will be using this expertise against you. Hiring the Los Angeles Eviction Attorney to represent you bolsters your chances of winning in court.
Our team of expert legal minds will help you prepare for court by gathering and arranging evidence and other court documents. For instance, if the eviction process is based on discrimination, we shall investigate to see if the plaintiff has done this before and establish a pattern. Issues with repair and maintenance must be supported with photographic evidence to show the judge how bad things are. Also, we shall get current reports from the health and safety departments to prove the negligence of the landlord's duty.
Some court cases warrant having witnesses give their testimony before a jury. If this is a necessity, we shall find credible witnesses and prepare them for trial, including issuing a subpoena for those who decline. For instance, your next-door neighbor could have similar issues, but they are not fighting with the landlord. This person's testimony is vital to your case, but they won't appear voluntarily unless a court order is presented to them.
Jury vs. Non-Jury Trials
Not all cases have members of the jury present, and so it is our job to petition the Superior Court for one. A judge presides over a non-jury trial, which is much easier than when presenting a case to a jury. Defendants who don't have resources to hire an attorney are fond of no-bench suits. Nevertheless, there are scenarios where you could benefit from a jury trial, but you must be prepared for their requirements.
The party requesting a jury must deposit the upfront fees of the panel and be ready to pay all jury fees if the case doesn't go their way. Also, presenting a case before twelve jurors are more daunting than speaking before a judge, which means you are better off retaining legal experienced legal counsel.
Making such legal decisions that could impact the outcomes is overwhelming and could lead to costly mistakes. As your attorneys, we shall draw upon our vast experience to make the right decisions on your behest, after which the court sends a Memorandum to Set Case for Trial to update the other side.
Find a Qualified Eviction Attorney Near Me
Renting or leasing a property comes a host of challenges such as an eviction, which could severely disrupt your life. An unscrupulous landlord may attempt to remove you from the property in the middle of a school year. They could also evict you when your work schedule is hectic, and therefore, finding another place is not feasible. The Los Angeles Eviction Attorney has a wealth of experience helping clients like you win these cases, so property owners cannot bully them.
We pride ourselves in delivering the soundest legal advice and keeping clients informed every step of the way. There are many considerations in these court cases that demand intelligent decisions or risk hurting your case. Do not attempt to do this alone; contact our legal experts today at 310-695-5536 for a free consultation.