Eviction Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is a lawsuit?
- A lawsuit is the procedure by which we get to collect the property of other people and we get our property returned to us. In an eviction, we seek the rent you are owed and the return of your rental property.
What do these legal terms mean?
- In a lawsuit the "Plaintiff" is the person who files the suit and the "Defendant" is the person who is sued. For an eviction the landlord is the Plaintiff and the tenant is the Defendant.
- "Unlawful Detainer" is the legal term for an eviction suit. "UD" is slang for Unlawful Detainer.
- A "Process Server" is a person whose job it is to serve lawsuits.
- "Case Number" is the identification number for the lawsuit. Every lawsuit has a unique number.
- "Summons" is a document that must be delivered to the Defendant, it tells him or her that they have been sued.
- "Complaint" is a document that must be delivered to the Defendant, it tells him or her why they were sued.
- "Default" is a legal term for the status of a defendant in a lawsuit where they have been served and not answered. We must request the court enter the tenant's default. Once a tenant's default has been entered the tenant must receive the court's permission before they may respond to the suit.
- "Answer" is the document filed by the Defendant that is supposed to set forth his or her defenses to the suit, although it often does not. If this document is filed with the court, then we will have to have a trial (See FAQ "What is a Trial?"). The Defendant has either five or fifteen days after service to file this document with the court.
- "Judgment" is the decision of the court. For an eviction this is the decision that you are entitled to possession of your property and usually your back rent.
- "Possession only Judgment" is a decision of the court wherein the court only awards possession of your property, but not money.
- "Writ" this is the document by which the court instructs the Sheriff to perform the lockout of your tenant.
- "Sheriff Instructions" are the instructions from Charlton Weeks LLP to the Sheriff to perform the lock out.
- This is not a complete list of documents.
Why do I have to file a lawsuit?
- There are only two ways you can legally get possession of your rental property. Either the tenant returns possession to you or the Sheriff returns possession to you. The Sheriff will only return possession to you when directed to do so by the court.
What if I physically force the tenant to move out?
- This is a crime and is also a trespass, for which you can be sued by the tenant. While you own the property, since you voluntarily allowed the tenant to move into the property, you can only get possession of the property back from the tenant by either the tenant voluntarily returning the property to you or by the Sheriff returning the property to you.
What right does the landlord have to enter the rental unit?
- The landlord may enter into the property at any time with the tenants agreement.
- The landlord may enter the property after giving reasonable written notice. Twenty four hours is reasonable. Charlton Weeks LLP suggests that you always give at least twenty four hours notice. Some circumstances may even allow no notice, for example if the property has flooded. The notice should be posted on the door.
- The landlord may only enter onto the property for a legitimate reason, for example to inspect the property for damage, repairs, fire alarms, or to show it for sale. If the tenant refuses to allow the landlord to enter onto the property, the tenant can be evicted for this refusal (which means if you are already evicting the tenant, there is not much you can do).
- If the landlord improperly enters the property the tenant can sue the landlord for trespass.
Do I have to file an eviction if my tenant moved out but has allowed another person to move in?
- Yes, since that person was voluntarily allowed to move in, that person must either voluntarily move out or you must have the Sheriff move them out. In this case it would be your tenant's responsibility to evict this person and your tenant would have right and obligation to perform the eviction. Unfortunately, most tenants in this position shirk this duty.
Can I remove the doors, windows, or turn off the electricity to the property?
- No. If you do any of these actions the penalty which can be imposed by the court is $100.00 per day. The law prohibits the landlord from doing any of these actions and most other actions that reduces the usefulness of the rental unit.
Do I have to continue to pay the utilities of the rental unit?
- This depends on your contract with your tenant. If you agreed to pay the utilities you cannot stop paying them because you want the tenant out of the property. If you never promised to pay the utilities, you are under no obligation to pay for the utilities merely because the tenant has chosen not to pay.
What if the tenant dies?
- A month to month tenancy terminates thirty days after the last day the deceased tenant paid rent. Tenancies for a period of time continue pursuant to their terms.
How is an eviction lawsuit different from other types of lawsuits?
- There is little difference between an eviction lawsuit and other civil lawsuits. There are some procedural rules that are different. The most important one being that the court is supposed to set the eviction trial within twenty days after request. At Charlton Weeks LLP we request trial as soon as possible.
This information is only certain to be true in the Antelope Valley of California. While these FAQs are generally true, they have not been checked against such things as local county or local Court rules except in the Antelope Valley. If you are anywhere other than in the Antelope Valley, you should check with local Counsel before making any plans based on this information.