What a Landlord Can and Cannot Do in a California Eviction

In California, the only way to legally evict someone is by filing an “Unlawful Detainer” lawsuit. The laws governing eviction are very complicated and require landlords take specific steps for an eviction to be legal.

A landlord MUST give notice to terminate

California law requires landlords legally terminate tenancy before evicting someone. Tenancy can be terminated early for several reasons, including failure to pay rent, violating terms of the lease, or committing an illegal act. If there is cause, the landlord must give the following notice:

  • 3-day notice to pay rent
  • 3-day notice to cure or correct a violation
  • 3-day unconditional quit notice if the tenant commits a serious violation

If the lease is being terminated without cause, the notice depends on the lease term. If the tenant has a month-to-month agreement and has lived in the unit for less than one year, 30-day written notice is required. If the tenant has lived in the unit for 12+ months on a month-to-month lease, 60-day notice is required. For a fixed-term lease, the landlord cannot end the tenancy early without cause.

A landlord MUST serve notice properly

Not just any type of notice of eviction will work. A 3-day, 30-day, or 60-day notice to the tenant must be served correctly to be legally effective to ensure the tenant actually receives the notice. A landlord can send notice by:

  • Personal service, which means personally handing the notice to the tenant or leaving it with the tenant if the tenant refuses to take it. If the landlord does not find the tenant at home, the landlord can serve the notice personally at the tenant’s place of work. If neither option works, substituted service is allowed by serving the notice with someone of sufficient age and discretion at the tenant’s home or work AND mailing a copy of the notice to the tenant’s home.
  • Posting and mailing notice. In this case, the notice can be served by taping a copy of the notice to the rental property in a conspicuous area like the front door and mailing a copy to the rental unit’s address.

A landlord MUST give the tenant the option to correct a violation
If a landlord gives a 3-day notice and the reason can be corrected, the landlord must give the tenant the option of correcting the violation. This is true in cases where rent is behind or the tenant has a pet that is barred by the lease agreement or violating some other term of the lease, for example.

A landlord can NOT end a fixed lease without reason

If you have a fixed-term lease that lasts longer than one month, your landlord cannot end your tenancy without cause, such as violating the terms of your lease or failing to pay rent.

A landlord can NOT personally remove a tenant from the property

Under California law, it is illegal for a landlord to remove someone from the unit. The only way to legally evict a tenant is to win an eviction lawsuit at which point a sheriff will perform the eviction. This means a landlord cannot change the locks, remove a tenant’s property, or turn off heat or electricity, for example.

If you are facing eviction, a landlord tenant attorney may be able to help if you are dealing with retaliatory eviction, an eviction that was not done legally or following proper procedure, or you have another defense to the eviction. Contact Soliman Law Group for a free consultation with an experienced West Los Angeles landlord tenant attorney.

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