No matter how much you may dislike the idea of needing to learn more about eviction procedures, knowing what to when it comes to an eviction situation is one of the best ways to protect yourself from an unnecessarily long case.

Even landlords who spend weeks vetting and selecting tenants may find themselves needing to file for eviction for one reason or another, and knowing the procedure is very helpful at those times.

If you don’t know what you are doing, it’s all-but-guaranteed that you will lose both money and time while you figure it out. And those resources are not ones that you should be willing to waste!

The eviction notice in California may be handled a little bit differently than it is in other states, so it is important that you become familiar with how to serve an eviction notice in California if you have rental property in the state.

Let’s get into details of why, when, and how to consider eviction.

A Table of Contents for Proper Eviction Notice California

Why & When You Should Consider Eviction

The first step to handling eviction properly in California is knowing when eviction becomes an option. You cannot simply evict a tenant for annoying you. There are specific outlines in housing laws that give the particulars of what is and what is not grounds for eviction.

In California, the following situations can begin the eviction process:

  • Not paying rent on time
  • Breaking the lease
  • Breaking the lease & refusing to fix the problem
  • Damages to property
  • Disturbs other tenants and/or neighbors without change
  • Commits illegal actions on the property
  • Staying on property beyond the lease agreement term*
  • Landlord gives proper notice that rental agreement will be ending, but the tenant refuses to abide by the request

The last two reasons on this list, indicated with a star, are not always enough for eviction proceedings. In some cities with rent control policies in place, you may not be able to file for eviction for these reasons. To be sure about your situation, contact local authorities and clarify the eviction guidelines.

It’s important to note that you should take action immediately upon noticing a serious issue with a tenant or as soon as the behavior clearly becomes repetitive. The longer you wait to start eviction proceedings, the harder it may be.

Remember that beginning the eviction process doesn’t always mean that you will get through the entire process. Often, you’ll only make it through the first step or two of the process before the tenant changes their behavior for a more positive situation.

How To Handle Eviction in California

Now that you know the “why” of eviction, let’s get into the details of how to actually go through the filing process.

Step 1: Eviction Notice in California

The first thing that you need to do is give the tenant notice of the problem that is putting them at risk for eviction. If the problem can be considered temporary, you must give a recommended plan of action. Additionally, the notice should include information about when you will file for eviction if they do not fix the problem.

In some cases, this eviction notice serves only as a notice and not as a chance for repair. If the issue is severe enough, you do not have to give the tenant a chance to fix anything.

What you do have to give them, however, is time to respond. Depending on the reason for eviction, there is a certain amount of time that must pass between when the tenant receives notice and when you file for eviction:

  • Rent is late/overdue: 3-day notice to pay or quit the property
  • Broke lease terms: 3-day notice to fix or quit the property
  • Illegal activities/public nuisance: 3-day notice to quit (no chance to stay)
  • Landlord wants to end the lease early: 30-day notice to quit (if tenant lived there for less than one year) or 60-day notice to quit (if tenant lived there for more than one year)

As you can see, there are many different types of eviction notices. Each type of notice in California is required to include specific information, and you can find out the specifics for each case here.

Step 2: File Papers

If the period has passed with no chances, it is time for you to go to your local court and file three papers: the summons, the complaint, and the civil case cover sheet. With these three forms, you will make your case to the court about why there is an issue between you and the tenant.

Step 3: Serve The Tenant

A third-party server or service must serve the paperwork (the summons and complaint) to the tenant. The tenant must be given the papers directly or they must be both mailed and visibly posted on the property to ensure that the tenant sees them.

Whoever serves the paperwork must fill out a Proof of Service of Summons form to show the court that the paperwork was properly given to the tenant(s) in question.

Step 4: Waiting Period

If served in person, the tenant has five business days to respond.

If served by mail, the tenant has fifteen business days to respond.

If no response…

If the tenant never responds, you can file that the court proceeds with eviction without their input. This is called a default judgment. If awarded, you will be given a Writ of Possession for the property.

If they respond…

They will have to file an answer and have it served to you. At this point, a court date will be settled. It may proceed with or without a jury trial depending on whether either party decides to pay for a jury to sit for the case or not.

Step 5: Trial

During the trial, you will present the facts of why eviction is a necessary step to the judge. Likewise, the tenant will explain why they believe that eviction is not right in this situation.

You will want to ensure that you explain the facts as clearly as possible, and any physical evidence you have to back up what you are saying should be brought with you.

At the end of the trial, the judge will decide whether you win (awarding you the Writ of Possession) or if the tenant wins (you may have to pay them money).

If the tenant wins, there is always a chance that you will have to pay them back some money either for the inconvenience, for the legal fees, or for the ways that you as a landlord failed to upkeep a property. The amount owed to the tenant (or vice-versa) will be decided by the judge during the trial, and you can contest the ruling if you find it unfair.

Step 6: Eviction

Once you have a Writ of Possession from the court’s decision, you can take this to the local sheriff to have the tenant removed from the property. Do not attempt to make the tenant leave yourself even if you have this Writ.

The Sheriff will handle the tenant’s removal, and the property will once again be yours.

Avoiding Eviction From The Start

The number one way to avoid having to go through this potentially demanding eviction process is to choose better clients from the beginning. When you spend a little extra time by using the right services to find reliable tenants, you improve your chances of a smooth rental period.

While there may still be cases where even the most trustworthy tenants turn into an eviction case, putting energy into selecting great tenants from day 0 can help to ensure that you don’t end up in a tough corner.


As you can see, there is a lot to understand about eviction, but it is a very doable process once you break down the steps. There are just a few key things that you must remember:

  • Do not try to evict the tenant yourself.
  • Always pay attention to the notice and response periods to be sure you are following all the rules correctly.
  • Keep a record of all rent and contract information between you and your tenants.

Once you know how eviction works, it’s possible to see how you might use this process to deal with a situation where a tenant breaks the rules or becomes unruly. Regardless of what kind of tenants you have in the future, you will be prepared to handle them!