Landlord/Tenant

Unlawful Detainer

When a Landlord and Tenant cannot settle a disagreement over the use of a property, they may end up in a court of law. These cases are known as “Unlawful Detainer” cases. Unlawful Detainer cases can become complicated and proceed quickly. Through an Unlawful Detainer action, a Landlord may be given the right to legally evict a Tenant. This usually occurs when a leaseholder stays past the time designated in the applicable lease, the lease is canceled by the Landlord, or the Landlord believes the Tenant has improperly withheld/failed to pay their rent.

A Landlord may not evict a Tenant on their own. It is against the law for them to do so. The Landlord is also barred from disposing of the Tenant’s personal property, cutting off utilities to the Tenant’s residence, or locking the Tenant out of the unit.

To Legally evict a Tenant, a Landlord must serve the tenant with notice, wait for the notice to end, File an Unlawful Detainer action, and wait for the Court to make a ruling.

If you are facing an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit, contact us today to speak with an attorney and complete a free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.

Tenant FAQs

How long do I have to file a response if I have been served with an unlawful detainer summons?

After you have been served an Unlawful Detainer Summons, you have 5 days to file a response with the appropriate court. Your response must be in the proper legal format if you are requesting the Court to hear your case.


What happens if I do not file a response in time?

If you do not file an appropriate and timely response to an Unlawful Detainer Summons, you may lose your case, which means (most importantly) that you can be legally evicted! Additionally, the Court may make orders that your property, wages, or money may be taken from you without further notice.


 Is there a cost involved in filing my response?

Yes, there is a filing fee charged for filing a response to an Unlawful Detainer Summons. However, the court does grant fee waivers for certain low-income and modest means individuals. To see if you may qualify for a fee waiver from the court, please click the following link: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fw001.pdf


 What if I live at the property but my name is not listed on the unlawful detainer summons?

If you are not listed on the Unlawful Detainer Summons you are not obligated to join the lawsuit and your credit will not be negatively affected. However, if the Landlord wins the lawsuit, all persons residing in the residence can be evicted, whether they were named in the lawsuit or not.


If I’m not listed on the unlawful detainer summons but I want the court to hear my side of the facts, can I join the case?

Yes, if you want to join the lawsuit, you have a right to do so. You must file a “Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession Form” within 10 days of receiving service of the lawsuit. You must then file your actual Response within 5 days of filing the “Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession Form.”


 How can I prepare for my hearing?

First, you may want to create an outline organizing your thoughts and what you want the Court to consider. Additionally, you should compile and organize any documents related to your case. This may include: the lease or rental agreement, the Notice served on you or the Tenant, photos that show damage to the unit (if applicable), photos that show unsafe or unhealthy conditions (if applicable). Lastly, you should discuss the case with any potential witnesses you intend to bring to the hearing.


 What happens if I lose at trial?

If you are unsuccessful at trial, the Landlord will be given a “Judgment of Possession.” The Sheriff will serve the Tenant(s) with a “Notice to Vacate” the unit. This gives the Tenant(s) five days to vacate the property. The Tenant(s) may also be ordered to pay back rent, damages and legal costs depending on the specific facts of the case.


 Can I stop or delay the eviction?

If the Tenant(s) lose at trial but need more time to vacate the unit, they can try to speak with the Landlord directly to see if they are willing to allow them to stay in the unit as long as necessary to complete the move. If the Landlord does not agree, the Tenant(s) may file a “Request for a Stay of Eviction” and request an “Ex Parte” Hearing for the Judge to hear the request. Should the Judge grant the Stay of Eviction, and allow the Tenant(s) to remain longer, the Tenant(s) may have to pay rent for the duration of the stay. The amount of time granted for the stay will depend on the specific facts of the case.

If you are facing an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit, contact us today to speak with an attorney and complete a free 30-minute case evaluation.

Document Preparation

To be certain, having an attorney with you every step of the way is the best option for most litigants. In some cases, however, because of limited time, resources or other extenuating circumstances that simply isn’t an option.

Proceeding as a self-represented litigant does not lessen the high standard the Court requires of each party in an Unlawful Detainer action. This includes necessarily detailed filings, multiple deadlines, and intricate legal arguments.

When full-scope representation is not an option in your Unlawful Detainer action, People’s Legal Services can still offer you a free 30-minute case evaluation with an attorney. Moreover, we can effectively and affordably assist you in preparing your Unlawful Detainer Complaint or Answer. This maximizes your ability to self-represent at your hearing, and the value of each dollar you spend towards achieving a suitable and appropriate result in your case.

Please contact us today to complete your free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.