What is an eviction?

Sometimes landlord-tenant relations can be complicated, especially when talking about something like evictions, known legally as unlawful detainers. Here’s some general information that may provide some clarification:


In the state of California, a landlord may evict a tenant if they:

1.    Fail to pay the rent on time;

2.    Break the rental agreement and will not fix the problem (i.e. having pets when no pets are allowed);

3.    Damage property and thereby lower the property value;

4.    Disturb other tenants to the point of being a nuisance, even after being asked to stop;

5.    Use the property to do something illegal;

6.    Stay after the rental agreement is up; or

7.    If the landlord cancels the agreement and gives proper notice.


The landlord must give the tenant proper written notice. If the notice allows the tenant to correct the problem (i.e. paying back rent), the eviction may only occur if the tenant does not do what the notice asks. Otherwise, the landlord may file an unlawful detainer case when the notice period ends. Landlords must go to court and get a court order directing the tenant to move out in order to legally evict the tenant.


Even after being given written notice, a tenant still has rights. Without a court order, a landlord may not:

1.    Physically remove the tenant;

2.    Remove any of the tenant’s physical property;

3.    Lock the tenant out;

4.    Cut off the tenant’s utilities;

5.    Remove outside windows or doors; or

6.    Change locks.


Eviction process

A landlord may serve a 3, 30, 60, or 90 day notice, depending on the tenant’s situation. If the tenant does not vacate with the notice period, the landlord has the option to pursue eviction action. When a landlord serves an unlawful detainer suit, the tenant must file a response within 3 days. A trial will be scheduled within 20 days of the landlord’s request. If the landlord wins the suit, the tenant usually has 5 days to move out, depending on when the lock-out order is posted. The lock-out order allows the tenant to be locked out if their belongings have not left the premises within 5 days of posting. Further, all evictions are added to your credit report under “public records” which may make renting or buying a residence difficult.


Finding help

Landlords and tenants are not required to have a lawyer during an unlawful detainer suit However, evictions may be complicated, especially with strict court rules and forms you must file and serve. If you’re interested in getting legal help with your situation, whether you’re a landlord or tenant, give the Santa Barbara Lawyer Referral Service a call at 805-569-9400.

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