California law requires that a landlord legally terminate the tenancy before the landlord evicts a tenant. This means that the landlord must give the tenant written notice of the eviction which states the legal grounds for evicting the tenant. Written notice may be in any form, such as handwriting or print, so long as it is written. Notice means that the tenant must become aware of the eviction through the written document. If the tenant does not move out or fails to address the cause for eviction, the landlord may sue to evict the tenant in court, which is referred to as an unlawful detainer suit. In some instances, a landlord does not need to give the tenant the opportunity to fix the cause for eviction, but this is reserved for serious violations.
Types of Notices
There are several different types of termination notices by which a landlord can terminate a tenancy for reasons such as when the tenant violates the lease agreement, commits an illegal act, or fails to pay rent.
(1) Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent: When a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice to pay or else vacate the premises. The notice tells the tenant that they have three days to pay the full amount due. If the tenant fails to pay, the landlord can file an eviction suit after the three days. (see Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. §1161(2)).
(2) Three-Day Notice to Cure: When a tenant violates a term in the lease or rental agreement, the landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice to cure. This means that the tenant has three days to stop violating the lease. Examples include acts such as excessive noise, keeping a pet in a no-pet property, or failure to maintain the property. (see Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. §1161(3)).
(3) Three-Day Unconditional Quit Notice: If the tenant commits a serious violation, the landlord may give the tenant a three-day unconditional quit notice. Serious violations include causing damage to property or performing illegal acts on the premises, assigning or subletting the rental unit in violation of the lease, creating a nuisance on the premises, or causing substantial damage to the property. The notice tells the tenant that the tenant must move out within three days of receipt of the notice. Unlike the three-day notice to cure, this type of notice does not give the tenant the option to fix the violation. Therefore, the only option is to vacate the premises by the end of the three days.
(4) 30 and 60-Day Notice: If a landlord wants to evict a tenant for any other reason, or no reason at all, the landlord must provide at least a 30-day notice period to terminate the tenant if the tenant is on a month-to-month lease. Tenants who have lived on the property a year or longer are entitled to a 60-day notice period. (Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. §1946).
Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit
If the tenant fails to vacate or cure, the landlord may file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. After serving the eviction complaint on the tenant, the tenant has five days to file a response or vacate the premises. If the tenant does not file an answer to the complaint, the landlord may continue the process of eviction without a court trial. If the tenant does file a complaint, then a court trial date will be scheduled. At trial, the judge will hear the case and make a decision in favor of either the tenant or the landlord.
Unlawful Detainer Timeline
(1) Landlord gives the Tenant a 3-day, 30-day, 60-day, or 80-day “notice” in writing.
(2) Tenant does not comply with the notice.
(3) File an unlawful detainer with the court.
(4) Once filed, serve Tenant by either personal service, substitute service, or, within court permission, posting and mailing.
(5) Tenant has 5 calendar days to file a written response if personally served, and if they were served by substitute service or mailing, they have 15 days to respond from the date the envelope was postmarked.
(6) If Tenant responds, Landlord files a request for a hearing date. If Tenant did not respond, Landlord may ask the court for a Default Judgment.
(7) If no agreement is made between the Landlord and Tenant before hearing date, the parties must proceed with the hearing.
(8) If the Landlord wins at trial or a Default Judgment is filed, the Landlord may regain possession of the property by filing a Writ of Possession form with the court. The Sheriff will serve the Tenant with a notice to vacate within 5 days. If the Tenant does not move, the Sheriff will lock the Tenant out of the Property.