Under California law, you can be evicted for a variety of reasons, including not paying rent or violating the lease. However, there may be a few things you can do to postpone the eviction, or perhaps even stop it altogether.
If your landlord decides to evict you, you will first receive a written notice that states the reason for the eviction and includes a time period to either comply with the notice, if possible, or move out of the rental unit. In California, you could receive one of four types of eviction notices, depending on the reason for the eviction:
It is important to note that an eviction is a legal proceeding, and you are not automatically evicted when the time period stated in the eviction notice runs out. If you did not comply with the eviction notice, your landlord can then go to court and file the necessary paperwork to begin the eviction lawsuit against you. Depending on how busy the courts are, it could take anywhere from a week to months before a sheriff is ordered to evict you on a certain date. You can remain living in the rental unit until then, but remember that you will be required to pay the landlord rent until the day you move out of the unit.
Also, keep in mind that there are negative consequences to being evicted, other than losing your home. An eviction will have a negative impact on your credit report, and it could affect your prospects for future housing. Some landlords will not rent to people who have been evicted from a previous location.
For more information on the eviction process in California, see The Eviction Process in California. Also, if you are being evicted because the rental property is being foreclosed, see the Nolo article Rights of Renters in Foreclosure.
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy to stop your eviction, you should look at Evictions and the Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy may not stop an eviction, and you should carefully consider your options before filing.
If you receive an eviction notice, you should first try talking to your landlord. Since an eviction will cost both of you money (as well as time), you may be able to come to an agreement without going to court. Your landlord may be willing to stop the eviction if you agree to certain terms, such as paying rent you owe or stopping behavior that violates the lease. If you can't come to an agreement that prevents you from moving out, perhaps you can agree on a certain date and time for when you will move out of the rental unit.
If you and the landlord can agree on anything, be sure to get the agreement in writing, signed and dated by both of you.
If you are being evicted for not paying rent or violating the lease, then your eviction notice will state the reason for the eviction. If you comply with the eviction notice by either paying all the rent due and owing or correcting the lease violation, then, in California, the landlord must not proceed with the eviction (see Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 1161).
If you are not able to comply with the eviction notice within the time period stated in the notice, then you should talk to your landlord. For example, if you are being evicted for not paying rent, you will receive a three-day eviction notice. If you can't pay the rent in full within three days but you could by the end of the week, you should talk to your landlord to see if you can arrange to pay later. If your landlord agrees to terms that are different from the eviction notice, then you should get the agreement in writing.
If you do not comply with the eviction notice and you and your landlord are not able to reach an agreement, then your landlord can file the eviction lawsuit with the court. You will receive a copy of the paperwork after your landlord files, and you will then be required to file an answer or other written document (depending on your situation) in response to your landlord's complaint. An answer is a document that allows you to deny statements in the landlord's complaint or allege new facts;it's where you need to put any defenses to the eviction, such as the landlord shutting off your utilities. In California, a landlord must not shut off the utilities to a rental unit in order to get a tenant to move out. If the landlord tries this, you can use this as a defense against the eviction (see Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 789.3). For more ideas on possible defenses against an eviction, see Tenant Defenses to Evictions in California. You should also contact a lawyer to ensure you are using the best defenses available to you.
You must file an answer or other legal document if you wish to postpone or stop the eviction. If you do not do so, then the judge will rule in the landlord's favor, and the eviction will proceed. For more information on the eviction process, see the self-help section of the judicial branch of California. Also, the Nolo book, California Tenants' Rights, has detailed advice and forms for tenants faced with an eviction lawsuit.
If you do file an answer or other legal document, then a trial will be scheduled. You must attend this trial. At the trial, the judge will consider both sides of the argument and make a decision regarding the eviction.
Even if you don't have any defenses against the eviction, you should still file the appropriate paperwork, attend the trial, and talk to the judge. Depending on your circumstances (such as if you have minor children living at home or health issues), the judge might not schedule the eviction right away. Instead, the judge might give you a little extra time to prepare and move out of the rental unit before ordering a sheriff to perform the eviction. Keep in mind, though, that you will still owe your landlord rent until you move out of the rental unit.