Eviction notice posted on door.

Los Angeles Evictions and Unlawful Detainers: A Guide for Landlords

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According to the US Census Bureau, over 54 percent of all housing units are renter-occupied in Los Angeles County. As a result, evictions are very common. For rental property owners and landlords, navigating an eviction case–more formally known as an unlawful detainer—can be quite confusing. In addition, the process is quite lengthy and time consuming. This guide seeks to provide landlords and property owners with some essential information about evictions. We begin by covering some of the most important laws related to evictions, before discussing the different types of evictions, the eviction process, and unlawful detainer lawsuits in Los Angeles. By having this information, landlords will be much more knowledgeable about how to go about evictions, as well as how a skilled law firm such as Forward Law Group can make the process exponentially more simple and straightforward.

California Tenant Protection Act of 2019

The California Tenant Protection Act of 2019, also known as Assembly Bill (AB) 1482, was passed in 2019 as a way to protect residential tenants in California. Most significantly, the legislation imposed rent caps and just-cause evictions for certain residential properties across the state. These are covered in Civil Code §1946.2, 1947.12, and 1947.13—which all took effect on January 1, 2020, and expire on January 1, 2030. Related specifically to the topic of eviction, AB 1482 requires a landlord to have a “just cause” in order to terminate a tenancy–the tenant's right to use and possess the landlord's rental unit. In the sections below, we cover some important information about just cause evictions and how they can impact landlords. 

Understanding Just Cause Evictions

California requires that landlords have a just cause in order to remove or evict a tenant that has continuously occupied a rental unit for at least 12 months. This is covered in California Civil Code of Procedure Section 1946.2(a), which states:

Notwithstanding any other law, after a tenant has continuously and lawfully occupied a residential real property for 12 months, the owner of the residential real property shall not terminate the tenancy without just cause, which shall be stated in the written notice to terminate tenancy.

One aspect of this statement that is important to consider is the “notwithstanding any other law” part. Many cities have their own regulations and ordinances that take precedence over AB 1482. For example, in the City of Los Angeles, AB 1482 does not replace, amend or remove the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) that already provides eviction and rent increase coverage. 

There are two types or categorizations of just cause—at-fault and no-fault. For example, evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent is considered an at-fault just cause reason for eviction. On the other hand, a property owner and/or landlord evicting a tenant so the property owner and/or landlord can reside in the subject property is an example of a no-fault just cause reason for eviction. While these highlight differences between the two in a simple and basic way, they each have key details that property owners/landlords should be aware about, especially if they want to evict a tenant. 

What is the Difference Between At-Fault and No-Fault Evictions?

In basic terms, at-fault evictions are when a termination is the tenant’s fault. A tenant must follow the terms of the lease such as, for example, paying rent. Failure to do this constitutes an at-fault just cause. On the other hand, there are no-fault just cause reasons for eviction such as the property owner/landlord’s intent to demolish and substantially remodel the subject property. Each type of just cause has its own terms that must be satisfied for a property owner/landlord to attempt to evict a tenant. We cover both at-fault and no-fault evictions in greater detail in the sections below.  

At-Fault Just Cause Evictions

Some of the most common examples of at-fault just cause evictions include:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Criminal activity on the property
  • A breach of a material term of the lease agreement 
  • Assigning or Subletting in violation of the lease

When the list above outlines some of the common reasons behind at-fault just cause evictions, it is not exhaustive. There are several other cases/facts that can constitute an at-fault just cause eviction—for questions, call Forward Law Group. It is important to note that to terminate a tenancy, in most cases, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice. The most common notices with regard to at-fault just cause evictions, include, but are not limited to, a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, a Three-Day Notice to Perform Conditions (Cure) or Quit, and a Three-Day Notice to Quit.

3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit—Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 1161(2)

If a tenant fails to timely pay rent, a landlord has a right to serve their tenant with a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit.A Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit gives a tenant an opportunity to pay the past-due rent owed within three days or to vacate the subject property within three days. If the tenant fails to pay the past-due rent owed within three days, a landlord can then file an Unlawful Detainer action against the tenant. The landlord can request the past-due rent owed, holdover damages, and depending on the lease agreement, attorney fees and costs. It is important to note that the three-day period cannot include Saturdays, Sundays, and judicial holidays. 

3-Day Notice to Perform Conditions (Cure) or Quit—Cal. Civ. Proc. Code §1161(3)

In the event a tenant has violated a term of the rental agreement, a landlord can serve a Three-Day Notice to Perform Conditions (Cure) or Quit. Said Three-Day Notice to Perform Conditions (Cure) or Quit should outline the term of the lease agreement the tenant has violated, describe in detail how the tenant has violated said lease agreement term, and state how the tenant must cure the violation. A simple example of when a landlord can serve this type of notice is when a tenant has a dog on the property despite a no-pet policy in the lease agreement. The landlord would cite the no-pet policy, state the tenant is keeping a dog in the subject property, and to cure the violation, the tenant must remove the dog from the subject property within three days or vacate the subject property. After three days, if the tenant does not cure the violation or move out, the landlord can then serve a Three-Day Notice to Quit, and at its expiration, the landlord can file an Unlawful Detainer action against the tenant.

Serious, Unfixable Lease Violations—Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 1161(4)

Some issues are considered serious and unfixable lease violations. This can include, for  example, the tenant subletting the property, causing serious damage to the property, or being involved with or committing criminal activity on the property. In these situations, the tenant is not given the opportunity to fix the issue and the landlord can serve a Three-Day Notice to Quit. If the tenant does not move out within three days, the landlord can then file an Unlawful Detainer action against the tenant. 

No-Fault Just Cause Evictions

As mentioned previously, in certain cases, landlords have the right to evict a tenant even if the tenant has not done anything wrong or violated the lease in any way. Permissible reasons for no-fault just cause evictions include: 

  • The landlord or a member of the landlord’s family (spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, parents, or grandparents) wants to occupy the property, 
  • The landlord is withdrawing the rental from the market,
  • The landlord is planning to demolish or substantially remodel the property,
  • The property has a government notice or court order that requires the property to be vacated due to safety or health issues,

However, it is important to note that currently, the Los Angeles COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium prohibits most types of no-fault just cause reasons for eviction. Call Forward Law Group at (818) 471-8389 for more information regarding evicting a tenant during the eviction moratorium. 

Additionally, a landlord is likely required to serve a tenant with a 30-Day or 60-Day Notice to Vacate, depending on how long the tenant has resided in the subject property. Further, with regard to no-fault just cause evictions, a landlord is required to pay the tenant proper relocation assistance. 

Giving Your Tenants a Notice The Right Way

It is absolutely crucial that a landlord properly serve a tenant with the correct eviction notice. If a landlord fails to properly serve a tenant with the correct notice, a Court may dismiss the case in its entirety and require the landlord to re-start the process. Proper serve includes: 

  • Personal Service 
  • Substituted Service 
  • Service by Posting and Mailing 

With regard to the Notices described above, the time-frame of the Notice, for example a Three-Day Notice to Pay or Quit, begins the day after a tenant is served with the Notice. Most Notices require basic information such as the tenant(s) full name(s), the rental home address, and the just cause. However, the required information is specific to the details of the case, so it is best to consult with an experienced lawyer such as those at Forward Law Group

California Eviction Process

  1. The eviction process starts by first serving a notice—this can be a 3-, 30-, 60-, or 90-day day notice (depending on the situation). As we mentioned earlier, it is essential to confirm that the notice is served appropriately and includes all of the required information. 
  2. If the tenant does not timely comply with the notice, then the landlord can file the Unlawful Detainer. If the tenant is personally served with the Unlawful Detainer, the tenant has five days after being served with the Unlawful Detainer to file an Answer or a responsive pleading.
  3. If the tenant does not file an Answer or responsive pleading, the landlord can file a Request for Entry of Default Judgment. (Note: If the tenant does file an Answer or responsive pleading, then the landlord often files a Request to Set the Matter for Trial.)
  4. If the tenant has filed an Answer and a trial date is set, the case will likely go to trial. During trial, the landlord must prove its case. The goal is to be awarded possession of the subject property and in some cases, past-due rent, attorney fees, costs, etc.  
  5. After a landlord has a judgment, a landlord will likely file a writ of possession. The writ of possession is sent to the sheriff's department. The sheriff's department will schedule what is known as a sheriff's lockout order. On the day of the lock out order, a sheriff will go out to the property to help ensure the tenant moves out.

While the list above provides a simplified breakdown of the eviction process in Los Angeles and California for the purpose of providing a general overview, each unlawful detainer case has unique details that need to be considered in order to have a successful eviction. Each case is unique and as such, the process does not always look the same. The above-mentioned list is a general breakdown for educational purposes only. 

How Can A Lawyer Help with Unlawful Detainers?

In the article above, our attorneys at Forward Law Group provide some must-know information about evictions and unlawful detainers from the point of view of a landlord. While it is always beneficial to be well-informed as a landlord, it is also pivotal to understand when getting the assistance of a lawyer will be beneficial and worthwhile. With the passage and implementation of AB 1482, tenants in California became more protected–ultimately making it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants. Today, navigating an eviction likely requires the assistance of an experienced attorney. At Forward Law Group, we have successfully aided clients across Los Angeles and California evict tenants in a simple and effective manner. With a highly-qualified lawyer handling your case, the stress, time, and energy that a landlord expends on an eviction is significantly reduced. 

Additionally, the lawyers at Forward Law Group have been particularly helpful for landlords dealing with evictions in recent years due to the numerous COVID-related eviction laws and regulations that have been in effect. Understanding the different regulations that a landlord must comply with can be extremely confusing, but a skilled lawyer can walk you through the process with little to no issues. 

Forward Law Group: The Trusted Lawyer in LA with Unlawful Detainer and Eviction Cases 

When it comes to eviction lawsuits in Los Angeles, Forward Law Group is the trusted name in the region. Our lawyers have the experience to take care of all your eviction and unlawful detainer needs—no matter how simple or complex. We proudly serve landlords across the region, working to effectively resolve all of their legal needs. For questions and to learn how we can help you, give us a call today at (818) 471-8389.