Online Tenant's Guide: Eviction

So, things got complicated. The good news is that you still have rights and there are people who can help! To go directly to these resources, follow the below links:
You should absolutely consult with an attorney if you’re able to, but we understand that legal help is not accessible to everyone. Below is a rough timeline of the eviction process and some terminology you might encounter if your landlord tries to evict you.

NOTE: The Eviction Self-Help Guide from the California Courts is referred to many times below and is an excellent resource for learning about the eviction process in greater depth. The Slo County Courthouse also has a self help clinic, you can find information for that here.

1. The Notice

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If your landlord wants to evict you, they’ll have to start the process by giving you a Notice to pay, to do something (like remove a pet if you’re not allowed to have one), or to move out. If you don't do what your landlord asks within the specified timeframe in the Notice, they can start an eviction case (AKA an unlawful detainer case) to ask a judge to order you to move out. Some examples of different types of Notices are:
  • Notice to Quit (move out). This can be a 3-day, 15-day, 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day Notice. The number of days the notice says depends on certain factors, like how long you’ve lived there, what kind of lease you have (year vs. month-to-month.) At any rate, this is the deadline for when you have to do what the Notice says. This effectively ends your lease, as long as your landlord isn’t doing it for an unlawful reason, such as to discriminate or to retaliate against you for exercising a legal right. 
  • 3-day Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit (fix a problem or move out). This means you must do something, like remove a pet from the house if the lease says "no pets" or move out within 3 days.
Remember, your landlord must give you a written Notice before they ask a judge to order you to move out, and the Notice has to be delivered the right way AND have all the required information.

❗ Day 1 is the 1st day after you got the Notice. Don't include Saturdays, Sundays, or court holidays when counting the days

2. The Eviction Case Begins

If you don't move out by the date specified on the notice, or do what the Notice asks, you will get court papers from your landlord to let you know they started an eviction case. Remember, your landlord is the plaintiff and you are the defendant.
  • Summons–Unlawful Detainer. If you get a Summons, this means your landlord started a court case to ask a judge to order you to move out. The Summons tells you that you have five days to file a formal written response (called an Answer) with the court. 
  • Complaint–Unlawful Detainer. This document will include the landlord’s reason for evicting you and will be included with the Summons. Your landlord must serve a copy of this filing to you. 
  • Answer—Unlawful Detainer. This is your formal response to the Complaint your landlord filed against you. If you fail to respond within the time-frame specified on the Summons, your landlord may ask for a default judgment against you. If the court grants this default judgment, it effectively means that you’ll lose without a trial, so it’s very important that you respond to the Complaint in a timely manner. A fillable version of this document can be found here. Remember, even if the Complaint your landlord files is factually wrong, you still have to file your answer.
It’s a good idea to make a copy of all your documents. When you file them, the court will keep the original and return a stamped copy to you. Keep one of the copies for yourself. You'll give the other copy to your landlord.

A lot of the documents filed with the Court need to be on Judicial Council forms. The Clerk of the Court may reject your document if you don’t use the appropriate form. A link to these forms can be found here.

3. Your Response to the Court

Your formal response to the court is a document called an Answer. You will have to fill out and file this document with the court within 5 days, not counting Saturdays, Sundays, or court holidays. Even if you have a good defense to the eviction, it won’t matter if you don’t tell the court your side by filing a response on time. If you don't file a response, your landlord can ask the judge to decide the eviction case without hearing your side.

In the same way your landlord is required to properly serve you with a copy of their Complaint and Summons, you’ll have to properly serve them with your Answer. Here’s some information on the requirements: “How to Serve your Answer

4. Trial

If you did file an Answer, the case will proceed to a trial. The landlord typically sets the date, and a Mandatory Settlement Conference will be scheduled. This conference gives you and your landlord the opportunity to resolve the lawsuit in a way that satisfies both of you, without trial. If you cannot come to an agreement, the case proceeds to Trial.

When your case is called, the landlord will probably get to talk first and tell the judge why they think you should be evicted.

Next, you'll have the opportunity to present your side to the judge. It’s easy to forget a lot of important stuff during a stressful situation, so you may want to write up a list of your testimony in advance with all of the important facts and details you want to tell the judge.

If you have any evidence you’d like to present, (things like photos, emails, or letters that will help you make your case) make copies so you can give one copy to the judge and one copy to your landlord.

Once you and your landlord have had a chance to present your case the judge will decide. Listen carefully so you know what to do next. The court clerk will give or mail you a copy of the judgment that says what the judge decided.

5. After a Judge Decides

If you lose the case, the judge will give your landlord a Judgment of Possession (they may also order you to pay back rent, damages, penalties, and costs, like filing fees and attorney fees). This gives the landlord control (possession) of the property. Then, the landlord will fill it out and have the court clerk issue a Writ of Execution. They then take this Writ to the sheriff’s, which gives the sheriff permission to lock you out. Even if you lose an eviction lawsuit, you may be able to ask the court for more time to move. Even in this situation however, you will still owe your landlord money for each day you stay after the judge ordered you to move out. See the Court’s self-help page for more information about this process.

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