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Eviction for Landlords in California

What is Eviction?

Eviction is the process by which a landlord forces a tenant to leave a property. A landlord is a person who rents property to a tenant.

In California, a landlord can evict a tenant for various reasons, including if the tenant

  • Fails to pay rent on time;
  • Violates the lease agreement or rental agreement and does not fix the problem (this is called “breach”);
  • Damages the property in a way that lowers the property value (this is called “waste”);
  • Severely annoys other tenants or neighbors and will not stop (this is called being a “nuisance”);
  • Uses the property for illegal activity.

Also, a landlord can, but not if it is in a rent controlled city, evict a tenant if

  • The tenant stays after the lease ends;
  • The landlord ends the lease early after properly notifying the tenant.

The landlord can’t evict a tenant for discrimination or retaliation — that’s illegal.


  • Landlord can evict – Jimmy, a tenant plays Icky Thump by the White Stripes every night at 2 AM on repeat on his really big speakers. This always wakes up the neighbors and he refuses to stop when asked to by Kris the landlord.
  • Landlord cannot evict – Jimmy the tenant is Vietnamese. And Kris the landlord doesn’t like Vietnamese people. It would be illegal for Kris to evict Jimmy for this reason, because it would be discrimination.

The eviction process is made up of a few steps. In this article, Part I, we will discuss these steps:

  • Giving notice
  • Filing a Summons and Complaint
  • Service

In our next article, Part II, we will explain these steps:

  • Receiving an Answer
  • Going to eviction trial
  • Receiving a judgment.

Let’s take a closer look at eviction.

Breaking down eviction for landlords in California.

What is notice?

Notice is the official notification a landlord gives a tenant that the tenant needs to do something or be evicted. Notice is not merely telling the tenant he needs to do something. It is a “term of art,” which means it has a specific definition within the law.

A landlord needs to give a tenant a specific type of notice depending on what action the tenant needs to perform. Each type of notice has its specific requirements. If the requirements are not met, the notice might not be valid, and the landlord may automatically lose the case. Here are the types of notice

  • 3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit – use this notice if a tenant is behind on rent.
  • 3-Day Notice to Perform Covenants or Quit – use this notice if a tenant is breaking terms of the lease or rental agreement and the problem can be fixed.
  • 3-Day Notice to Quit – use this notice if the tenant has been causing a “nuisance,” selling drugs on the property, damaging the property, or sub-leasing the property without permission.
  • 30-Day or 60-Day Notice to Quit – use this notice if a tenant has been renting for less than a year.
  • 90-Day Notice to Quit – use this notice if a tenant is in subsidized housing.


Jimmy the tenant refuses to stop playing Icky Thump so Kris gives him notice in the form of a 3-Day Notice to Quit.

What is a Summons?

Summons is a legal document literally summoning a person to either appear in court or respond to a Complaint. Summons is usually written by the plaintiff (so in this scenario, the Landlord) and then sent to the defendant (the tenant) and filed with the court.

What is a Complaint?

Complaint is a legal document describing the purpose of the lawsuit. A Summons and Complaint are filed together if a tenant does not comply with the given notice.


Jimmy does not quit playing Icky Thump even after Kris gives him notice. So, Kris then begins a formal lawsuit. She creates a Summons and Complaint using the templates provided online.

What is service?

Service is the act of delivering a legal document to a person. Again, it is a term of art. It needs to be done in a specific way, complying with the law, otherwise, it is invalid. In the case of eviction, notice and the Summons and Complaint can be served in one of three ways.

  • Personal service: The landlord or someone else gives the document directly to the body of the tenant in person.
  • Substituted service: If the tenant is not home, the landlord can leave the document with an 18-year-old or older member of the household at the residence AND then mail a second copy to the tenant at the residence.
  • Posting and mailing service: If there is no one home, the landlord can tape or nail the notice to the front door or somewhere where it can be seen easily AND then mail a second copy to the tenant at the residence. This method can only be used for the Summons and Complaint by permission of the Court


Kris then serves the Summons and Complaint and Cover Sheet on Jimmy. When she gets to Jimmy’s residence, she finds him there and hands him the documents. Jimmy is now served.

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