California Eviction Process

When you are done reading about the California Eviction Process below, we recommend you purchase the corresponding California Eviction Notice to be delivered to your Tenant.


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If a Tenant in California is in violation of their lease, either by breaking the terms of lease or by not timely paying rent, the first thing the Landlord should do is serve them with a California 3-Day Eviction Notice.

Serving the 3-Day Notice to the tenant can be accomplished in one of three ways:

  1. Personal Service. This is one of the quickest ways to serve a tenant. The landlord must go to the tenant’s residence or place of work and physically hand them the 3-Day Notice to vacate. If the tenant refuses to accept it, you can leave it there with them.
  2. Substituted Service. If the landlord cannot find the tenant, the landlord can leave the notice with someone who is of “suitable age and discretion” at the tenant’s home or workplace, AND the landlord must mail the notice to the tenant’s home. A person of “suitable age and discretion” would be somebody no younger than a teenager. The 3 day notice period (3 days you have to wait before filing an Unlawful Detainer lawsuit) begins one day after the landlord has completed both of these requirements.
  3. Posting and Mailing. If the tenant cannot be served, another way of accomplishing service is to post (by taping, tacking, or nailing) the 3-Day Notice to the front door of the rental unit, AND to mail the notice to the rental address. Both of these steps must be accomplished for this kind of service to be effective, and the 3 day notice period begins one day after the landlord has done both. Be sure you make copies of everything you send and post so you have proof for the judge. It is also good to have witnesses when posting the notice.

Unlawful Detainer
If the tenant does not pay the rent or cure the default within those 3 days given to them in the notice, the landlord must start an “Unlawful Detainer” lawsuit to evict the tenant. This court case is started in the Superior Court for the county the property is located in. Ask the court clerk for the appropriate form to fill out to start your case. Once your case is filed, the tenant will be served the lawsuit by the court, and will have 5 days to file a written answer. If the tenant does not answer within the 5 days, you will be given a “Writ of Possession” order. If the tenant answers on time, you and the tenant will have to go in front of the judge to plead your case. This is usually within 20 days, and the court will let you know when it is. When you go to court, make sure you bring evidence of the tenant’s violations, a copy of the lease, and proof of the 3-Day Notice. If you win the case, the court will issue a writ of possession.

Writ of Possession
Once the landlord wins the case, the Writ of Possession gives the tenant 5 days to move. If they do not move at the end of 5 days, the Sherriff can come physically move out the tenant along with their property (landlord must request this). Note, ONLY the sheriff can remove the tenant. The landlord may never use “self-help” to evict the tenant at any point. Along with the Writ of Possession, the court can also award the landlord back rent, damages, and sometimes attorney’s fees. If the tenant acted maliciously, the court will sometimes add an additional fine.

Next Step: We recommend you purchase the corresponding California Eviction Notice to be delivered to your Tenant.

This site strives to have the most current information on state eviction laws and forms, however, legislatures and judges’ rulings are always changing the laws. The information on this site is to be used as a guide, and is not to be used as legal advice, or as a substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you believe any information on this site is incorrect or needs to be updated, please Contact Us immediately.