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 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.
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)).
The three-day notice to pay rent must be written, and it must include the following information:
A landlord has several options of how to give a three-day notice to a tenant:
A tenant could respond to the three-day notice in a variety of different ways.
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.
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.