What is an Unlawful Detainer Action?
- Evict someone from their home:
An Unlawful Detainer action is a special court proceeding. It’s a legal way to evict someone from the place where they live. This usually happens when a tenant stays after the lease is up, the lease is canceled, or the landlord thinks the tenant hasn’t paid their rent.
- Disagreement has to be about the tenant moving out:
An Unlawful Detainer decides if the landlord can take the property back from the tenant. The landlord is the plaintiff. The tenant is the defendant. If the defendant moves out before trial, the case is dismissed or, can be changed to a regular civil action.
- Only the Sheriff can physically evict someone:
If the landlord wins, they’ll get a “judgment for possession”. The tenant has to move out. The sheriff can enforce this judgment. This means the sheriff can physically make the tenant leave.
- You can’t evict someone yourself:
You can’t evict someone yourself. It’s against the law. Only the sheriff can evict someone. That’s why you need an Unlawful Detainer. For example: Even if a tenant is months behind on the rent, the landlord can’t:
- Evict the tenant
- Get rid of the tenant’s things
- Lock the tenant out,
- Cut off the water or electricity, or
- Remove outside windows or doors.
To legally evict the tenant, the landlord has to:
- Serve the tenant with a notice,
- Wait for the notice to end, and
- File an Unlawful Detainer action if the tenant doesn’t do what the notice asks.
- Expedited Proceeding:
An Unlawful Detainer case is really fast. Usually, the defendant has 5 days to file a response. You can have a trial 20 days after that. In general, the defendant can’t file a cross complaint. But, they can say that the plaintiffs acted badly as a defense.
The Law Office of David Piotrowski represents landlords throughout southern California and can assist with a tenant eviction.
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