Skip Navigation Links

Unlawful Detainer


Evictions

The information in this guide pertains to basic residential evictions. Different laws and procedures apply to evictions from hotels, subsidized housing, commercial properties, and mobile homes. Ask a Law Librarian for more information about these other types of evictions.

An eviction (also called an "unlawful detainer") is the legal process used b  y a landlord to remove a tenant from a rental property. California law provides very strict guidelines and procedures for unlawful detainer actions.  A landlord's failure to  comply with these guidelines may result in the court dismissing the eviction case.

NOTICE

To end a tenancy, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenants. A specific form is not required, but the notice must be in writing and must include certain information, such as the tenant's name, the address of the property, and the number
of days' notice being provided.

Different types of notice are required, based on the reason for the eviction.

Three-Day Notice
Three-day notices are used to terminate a tenancy for cause, such as non-payment of rent, violation of the rental agreement, or criminal activity on the premises. If the problem is corrected within 3 days, the tenancy continues. Some problems, such as illegal activity on the premises, cannot be corrected.

30-Day/60-Day Notice
If you are renting on a periodic basis, such as month-to-month, the landlord can terminate your tenancy by providing a 30- or 60-day notice. State law does not require the landlord provide any reason for terminating your tenancy. Be aware that some local cities have enacted "just cause" requirements for evictions; no cities in Sacramento County have such a law. Thirty-day notices are used if the tenant has lived in the rental less than a year; 60-day notices are required if the tenant has lived in the rental for a year or longer. If you are in the middle of a lease, your tenancy cannot be terminated in this way.

90-Day Notice
In certain situations, the landlord is required to provide a 90-day notice to terminate a tenancy. This is most common with certain types of subsidized housing and properties purchased at foreclosure. 

These notices are not "evictions." A notice does not mean you have to go to court, and it will not appear on your credit report. It is simply a notice from the landlord informing the tenant that they must move out. For more information about Notices to Terminate Tenancy, see these resources:

California Courts Self-Help Website
www.courts.ca.gov/1288.htm

California Eviction Defense Manual KFC 145 .E9 M68 Chaps. 5-8
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw

The California Landlord's Law Book: Evictions KFC 145 .Z9 B76 (Self-Help) Chaps. 2-5
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

The California Landlord's Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities
KFC 145 .Z9 B762 (Self-Help) Chaps. 16 &18.
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

California Landlord-Tenant Litigation KFC 145 .C35 M38 Chap. 4
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Landlord-Tenant Practice KFC 145 .C36 Chap. 8
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw

California Practice Guide: Landlord-Tenant KFC 145 .F74 Chap. 7
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using Westlaw.

California Tenants' Rights KFC 145 .P67 (Self-Help) Chap. 14
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

Handling Unlawful DetainersKFC 145 .Z9 G87
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw

COMPLAINT FOR UNLAWFUL DETAINER

If the tenant does not vacate the premises or correct lease violations by the end of the noticed time period (3, 30, 60, or 90 days), the landlord may file a Complaint for Unlawful Detainer with the court. "Unlawful Detainer" is the legal term for an eviction. For more information about the Complaint for Unlawful Detainer, see these resources:

California Courts Self-Help Website www.courts.ca.gov/1288.htm  

California Eviction Defense Manual KFC 145 .E9 M68 Chap. 11
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.  

The California Landlord's Law Book: Evictions KFC 145 .Z9 B76 (Self-Help) Chap. 6
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx

California Landlord-Tenant Litigation KFC 145 .C35 M38 Chap. 5
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.  

California Landlord-Tenant Practice KFC 145 .C36 Chap. 9
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.  

California Practice Guide: Landlord-Tenant KFC 145 .F74 Chap. 8
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using Westlaw. 

Handling Unlawful Detainers KFC 145 .Z9 G87
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw

RESPONSE

After receiving the complaint, the tenant has five days to file and serve a response. When counting these 5 days, include weekends, but do not include court holidays. If the 5th day is a weekend or court holiday, the response is due by close of business the next court day.

There are numerous ways to respond to a Complaint for Unlawful Detainer. More information about responsive options is available from these resources:

California Courts Self-Help Website www.courts.ca.gov/1289.htm

California Eviction Defense Manual KFC 145 .E9 M68 Chaps. 13-16
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.  

California Landlord-Tenant Litigation KFC 145 .C35 M38 Chap. 5
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.  

California Landlord-Tenant Practice KFC 145 .C36 Chap. 10
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.  

California Practice Guide: Landlord-Tenant KFC 145 .F74 Chap. 8
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using Westlaw.

California Tenants' Rights KFC 145 .P67 (Self-Help) Chap. 15
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

DEFAULT

If the tenant does not respond to the Complaint within 5 days, the landlord may pursue a default judgment. With a default judgment, the landlord evicts the tenant without the tenant having a say in the case. More information about pursuing a judgment by default is available from these resources:

California Court Self-Help Website www.courts.ca.gov/1288.htm  

California Eviction Defense Manual KFC 145 .E9 M68 Chap. 12
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw 

The California Landlord's Law Book: Evictions KFC 145 .Z9 B76 (Self-Help) Chap. 7
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.

California Practice Guide: Landlord-TenantKFC 145 .F74 Chap. 8
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using Westlaw.

TRIAL

If the tenant does respond, the case will move to trial. The landlord must submit a request to set the case for trial. The hearing will be scheduled within 20 days of this request. More information about setting the case for trial is available from:

California Courts Self-Help Website www.courts.ca.gov/1288.htm and www.courts.ca.gov/1289.htm  

California Eviction Defense Manual KFC 145 .E9 M68 Chap. 25
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.  

The California Landlord's Law Book: Evictions KFC 145 .Z9 B76 (Self-Help) Chap. 8
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx 

California Landlord-Tenant Litigation KFC 145 .C35 M38 Chap. 5
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Landlord-Tenant Practice KFC 145 .C36 Chap. 12
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.  

California Practice Guide: Landlord-TenantKFC 145 .F74 Chap. 9
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using Westlaw. 

Handling Unlawful Detainers KFC 145 .Z9 G87
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

THE JUDGMENT

Whether the case is decided by default or after a trial, the judge will issue a judgment. If the judgment is in favor of the landlord, the court will issue a "judgment of possession," returning the property to the landlord, and possibly a money judgment for past-due rent and court costs. The cost of repairing and cleaning the property cannot be awarded during an unlawful detainer lawsuit. The landlord can pursue that type of case in small claims court. The landlord can use the judgment to obtain a "Writ of Execution." The Writ of Execution can be used to have the sheriff evict the tenant, and to enforce any money judgment the court may have granted. More information about judgments in unlawful detainer cases is available from these resources:  

California Courts Self-Help Website www.courts.ca.gov/1288.htm and www.courts.ca.gov/1289.htm  

California Eviction Defense Manual KFC 145 .E9 M68 Chaps. 26-28
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.  

The California Landlord's Law Book: Evictions KFC 145 .Z9 B76 (Self-Help) Chap. 9
Electronic Access: From any computer (Library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx

California Landlord-Tenant Litigation KFC 145 .C35 M38 Chap. 5
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Landlord-Tenant Practice KFC 145 .C36 Chap. 13
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw 

California Practice Guide: Landlord-Tenant KFC 145 .F74 Chap. 9
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using Westlaw.

Handling Unlawful Detainers KFC 145 .Z9 G87
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw

COMMUNITY RESOURCES

The process described above applies to a simple eviction case. There are many alternate paths that a case may take. Many of the resources described in this guide will provide details about these alternatives. Additional information and assistance with landlord-tenant issues is available from these community resources: 

Unlawful Detainer Advisory Clinic 
Carol Miller Justice Center, 301 Bicentennial Circle, 3rd Floor Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. & 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Services provided: Assists both landlords and tenants in filling out answers and complaints, preparing cases for trial, filing post-judgment motions etc.
Eligibility: First come-first served. A sign-up sheet is located in the hallway outside the clinic.  

Legal Services of Northern California: Fair Housing
www.lsnc.net/housing-law-issues/
916-551-2150
Services provided: Offers advice and assistance with landlord-tenant issues, eviction, habitability, fair housing and fair lending questions.
Eligibility: Must be low-income. 

McGeorge Housing Mediation Center
www.blogs.mcgeorge.edu/hmc/   
916-383-1861
20 Bicentennial Circle, Suite 200, Sacramento, CA 95826
Services provided: Free mediation of housing disputes, including landlord-tenant issues and neighbor problems. Call or complete the online intake form to get started.
Eligibility: At least one party to the mediation must be within 200% of the federal poverty line for monthly household income.      

updated 5/14 mpj