Forcible Eviction and Forcible Detainer in California


The eviction articles on this blog generally discuss unlawful detainers, where the landlord needs to evict a “bad” tenant due to non-payment of rent, violations of the rental agreement, or other reasons. This blog post will diverge from the normal posts and will discuss what is known as a “forcible entry” and “forcible detainer” in California.

Unlike unlawful detainers, which are perfectly legal and proper when a tenant needs to be removed from a rental unit, a forcible entry and forcible detainer is against the law. An example of a forcible entry or forcible detainer is when the landlord resorts to “self-help” remedies to remove a tenant. This might include changing the locks on the tenant or entering the tenant’s unit and moving the tenant’s personal possessions out of the unit.

A forcible entry occurs if the landlord violently breaks into the rental property or removes the party in possession by violence or threats.

A forcible detainer occurs if a person unlawfully holds possession of any real property through violence or threats, or unlawfully enters a rental unit at nighttime or during the occupant’s absence and refuses to surrender for five days after a demand to return possession.

Remedies for a forcible entry or forcible detainer are judicial proceedings for restoration of possession and these actions are given priority in the court system, just like unlawful detainers. In addition to possession, a forcible entry or forcible detainer action may also seek recovery of actual damages resulting from the forcible entry or forcible detainer. The landlord may also be liable for an independent damages action and possible criminal exposure.

An exception to self-help remedies applies to lodgers.

The Law Office of David Piotrowski represents landlords throughout southern California and can assist with a tenant eviction.

Read Attorney Piotrowski’s “Landlord Best Practices and Eviction Overview” book.

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