California Eviction Timeline

Even large-scale, institutional renters may only occasionally have to deal with evicting a tenant. Smaller companies and individual landlords may not know where to begin or what to expect throughout the course of the eviction process. An Orange County eviction lawyer can help you understand the details of your particular case and help you make strategic decisions about what steps should be taken and when. Generally speaking, California eviction cases will follow this timeline:

Ending a Tenancy

In California, a landlord may be able to evict a tenant if the tenant:

  • Fails to pay the rent on time;
  • Breaks the lease or rental agreement and will not fix the problem (like keeping when pets are not allowed);
  • Damages the property bringing down the value (commits “waste”);
  • Becomes a serious nuisance by disturbing other tenants and neighbors even after being asked to stop; or
  • Uses the property to do something illegal.

In most cities, the landlord can also evict the tenant:

  • If he tenant stays after the lease is up,* or
  • If the landlord cancels the rental agreement by giving proper notice.*

*If your city has rent control, these 2 reasons may not be good enough to evict a tenant. Most rental units in California are not rent-controlled. But if the unit is in a city with rent control, there usually are more protections in place for tenants that you need to know. The best way to find out if rent control applies to a unit is to check with the local city or county government, planning and zoning department, or with the local legal aid, self-help center, or law library.

To Evict a Tenant

Landlords must follow a series of steps in order to legally evict a tenant. This is true whether the lease or rental agreement is in writing or was a verbal agreement.

First, you must serve the tenant with written notice as stated in the California Civil Code and California Code of Civil Procedure. If the notice allows the tenant to correct the problem, such as to pay the back rent or to remove a pet, the landlord can only evict if the tenant does not do what the notice asks. If the notice is not correctable, such as a 30- or 60-day notice to move out in a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord can file a lawsuit for unlawful detainer or forcible detainer in court when the notice period ends. If you are evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent, then you have to serve the tenant and give them 3 days’ notice to correct the problem, or to pay you the rent you are owed. If the tenant does not leave within the appropriate notice period, does not pay the rent within the appropriate notice period, or fails to correct a breach of agreement, then you, as a landlord, may file a lawsuit for unlawful detainer or forcible detainer.

If you have followed all the proper procedures, and the tenant either does not answer the court papers, or the tenant answers but the court decides in favor of the landlord, the court will order the sheriff to evict the tenant. If the court decides for the tenant, the tenant will get to stay.

Timeline for Evictions in California

  1. The 3-day notice is properly served on tenant for failure to pay rent. The 3-day notice tells the tenant how much is owed in back rent, and tells where and when to make payment. If the tenant fails to make payment within three days, you may commence eviction proceedings.
    1. Estimated Time: 1 day for it to be sent out from the date of referral.
  2. The 3-day notice served and proof of service returned. To ensure that the three day notice is delivered, your Anaheim, Orange County, and Santa Ana eviction attorney will retain a service processor to deliver it.
    1. Estimated Time: 1 week.
  3. Complaint filed and out for service. Once the 3-day notice expires, your attorney can commence legal proceedings in court by filing a complaint.
    1. Estimated Time: 10 days. The complaint will generally be filed within 1 week after service of 3-day notice. The period is shorter if the complaint is filed in Orange County.
  4. Motion for Order to Serve by Posting. This motion is filed if the tenant is avoiding service of process and allows you to serve the tenant by posting a declaration. Usually, it will be clear within a week after filing the complaint if the tenant is avoiding service.
    1. Estimated Time: 10 days. The motion is usually filed within one week of the filing of the complaint.

At this point, the tenant has an opportunity to file an answer to your complaint. The answer will either admit or deny the allegations in the complaint, and will assert any defenses the tenant believes that they have. For example, a tenant might argue that he does not owe back rent because his landlord has not made necessary repairs.

If the Tenant Files an Answer, Then: 

  1. Request and set a trial date. Your Orange County eviction attorney from Schiff & Shelton will request a trial date.
    1. Estimated Time: 3 weeks until trial date.

If the Tenant Does Not File Answer in Court:

  1. Submit a default to the court. If the tenant fails to respond in the appropriate amount of time, the court will treat it as an admission.
    1. Estimated Time: 15 days, but possibly less if all tenants are personally served. This time is longer if there is a holiday within the 15-day period.
  2. Court enters judgment and issues Writ of Possession.
    1. Estimated Time: 1 week, possible more if money judgment needed.
  3. Lockout. The sheriff will call you to set up a lockout date to evict the tenant.
    1. Estimated Time: 1 week after sheriff receives writ.

Your individual case may be different from what is outlined above. If you are in the Orange County area, or anywhere throughout the state of California, the eviction attorneys at Law Offices of Schiff & Shelton are ready to represent you at every stage of your proceeding. Call (949) 417-2211 today for a consultation.

Schiff & Shelton, Attorneys at Law
3700 Campus Dr, Suite 202
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 417-2211

The information contained herein is not intended to serve as legal advice and is advertising as defined by the California Business and Professions Code. For your legal needs, you should consult with a qualified attorney.