Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in California

Landlords can choose to evict a tenant who fails to pay rent in California. Here’s how.

If a tenant fails to pay rent in California, a landlord can choose to have the tenant evicted, as long as the landlord follows the correct eviction procedures. This article will explain how to evict a tenant for failing to pay rent when it is due.

Rent Due Dates in California

Rent is typically due on the first day of every month, even if the first of the month is a weekend or holiday. The landlord is not required to give the tenant a grace period before charging a late fee or taking steps toward eviction. As soon as the tenant fails to pay rent when it is due, the landlord can start taking steps toward evicting the tenant.

However, keep in mind that the landlord and the tenant can agree to different terms within the lease. For example, the landlord could agree to wait three days after rent is due before charging a late fee, or the landlord could agree that rent will be due the following business day if the first of the month is a holiday. Whatever the agreement, it must be in writing and contained within the lease. Then the landlord and the tenant are both required to follow the terms of the lease.

Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

As soon as a tenant fails to pay rent, a landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice. This notice must inform the tenant that if the tenant does not pay rent within three days of receiving the notice, then the landlord will begin eviction proceedings against the tenant (see Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1161(2)).

Information Included in Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit

The three-day notice to pay rent must be written, and it must include the following information:

  • date the demand was served on the tenant(s)
  • name(s) and address of tenant(s)
  • a statement that the tenant owes rent and must pay it within three days or the landlord will file an eviction lawsuit with the court
  • the total amount of rent due and owing
  • the name, telephone number, and address of the person who receives the rent payment, along with the days and hours that person is available to receive the rent, and
  • a certificate of service specifying how the demand was given to the tenant.

See Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1161(2).

Giving a Three-Day Notice to a Tenant

A landlord has several options of how to give a three-day notice to a tenant:

  1. The landlord can personally hand the notice to the tenant at either the rental unit or the tenant's place of business.
  2. If the landlord cannot find the tenant, the landlord can give the notice to someone of suitable age at either the rental unit or the tenant's place of business. If the landlord uses this option, the landlord must also mail a copy of the notice to the tenant.
  3. If neither the tenant nor someone of suitable age can be found to personally give the notice to, then the landlord can post the notice in a conspicuous place on the property, such as taped to the front door of the rental unit, and mail a copy of the notice to the tenant.

See Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1162(a).

Tenant Responses to a Three-Day Notice

A tenant could respond to the three-day notice in a variety of different ways.

  1. The tenant could pay the rent within three days of receiving the notice. If the tenant chooses this do this, the landlord must not proceed with the eviction.
  2. The tenant could move out of the rental unit within three days of receiving the notice. If the tenant does not pay rent, the landlord can use the security deposit to cover the rent charges and sue the tenant for any unpaid amounts of rent.
  3. The tenant could choose to not pay rent or move out of the rental unit. In this case, the landlord can proceed with the eviction at the end of the three-day period.

Evicting the Tenant

A landlord must go to court and win an eviction lawsuit in order to evict a tenant. To start the eviction lawsuit, also called an unlawful detainer lawsuit, the landlord must file a summons and complaint with the superior court of the county or district in which the rental unit is located. The court will set a date for a hearing before a judge, and the tenant will be notified of the upcoming lawsuit. If the landlord is successful at the hearing, the judge will give the landlord a writ of possession. This writ of possession gives the sheriff the authority to evict the tenant. The landlord must use the sheriff to evict the tenant.

It is unlawful for a landlord to attempt to evict a tenant without having a writ of possession and having the sheriff present. The landlord cannot force a tenant out of a rental unit through such means as changing the locks on the doors or shutting off the utilities to the rental unit. If a landlord attempts to do this, the tenant can sue the landlord for damages. For more information on illegal eviction practices, see the Nolo article Illegal Eviction Procedures in California.

Additional Resources for Landlord-Tenant Relations in California

For step-by-step instructions on the eviction process, see The California Landlord's Law Book: Evictions, by David Brown.

The California court system also has useful information on evictions and the court process, as do the California charts in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo website. For information on tenant's rights, see the book California Tenants' Rights, by Janet Portman and David Brown. For more eviction articles, see Nolo's section on Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease.

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