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What is an unlawful detainer lawsuit in California?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2024 | Real Estate Law |

An unlawful detainer lawsuit is a legal action filed by a landlord to evict a tenant who is unlawfully staying in a rental property. This typically occurs when a tenant violates the terms of the lease agreement, fails to pay rent or continues staying in the property after the lease has expired.

An unlawful detainer lawsuit aims to regain possession of a landlord’s property and, sometimes, recover unpaid rent or damages. The process begins with serving the tenant with a notice to quit, which informs them they must vacate the property within a specified period or fix the problem. Otherwise, they risk facing legal action.

Landlords: what to expect in an unlawful detainer lawsuit

If you are a landlord and you file this kind of action, should the tenant fail to comply, you can file a summons and complaint with the court and serve the tenant. Remember, you cannot serve the tenant yourself. You can use a registered process server or anyone above the age of 18 who is not a party to the action.

The tenant has a limited amount of time to respond. If they fail to respond, the court will issue a judgment in your favor, giving the tenant a final opportunity to vacate the property voluntarily or face physical eviction by the sheriff.

If the tenant files a response with the court, it sets the stage for a trial. There will be a hearing presided over by a judge where both parties will get to present their arguments and evidence. The judge will then make a decision based on the facts of the case.

As a landlord, it’s important to understand your rights and obligations under California law regarding unlawful detainer lawsuits. You must follow the proper legal procedures, including providing notice to the tenant and filing the lawsuit in the correct court. Reaching out for legal guidance can help you do everything right and help to safeguard your interests.