Featured News 2012 The Eviction Process and Your Rights

The Eviction Process and Your Rights

In movies, men and women walk up to their home and see an eviction notice on the door. In a panic, they realize that they will need to move out within a week and find a new place to live. While this makes an entertaining plot for a feature film, it does not reflect the reality of an eviction. Evictions are precluded with many warnings and calls from the landlord, and are a last result if the tenant refuses to move out. In order to evict a tenant, a landlord must fill out an unlawful detainer and submit it to the state superior court.

An unlawful detainer moves the court action forward quickly, so that that the tenant has a very short time-window in which to respond. After the landlord has presented the tenant with a summary of the landlord's summons and complaints, they normally have five days to compile a written response to the lawsuit and file it with the court. A judge normally reviews both sides of the case within 20 days of the filing. If you receive an eviction notice, as a tenant you have the right to a court hearing. You can explain why you feel your landlord is being unreasonable.

The landlord must abide by the court proceedings to evict tenants, and cannot use other means to send the renters away. For example, it is illegal for landlords to lock a tenant out of his or her apartment, or to physical force remove the renter. It is also illegal for landlords to cut off utilities, remove the tenant's furniture or belongings, or block entrances to the building. It the landlord uses illegal methods to remove the renter, then the he or she will be subject to liability for the tenants damages and may need to pay penalties. Often the landlord will need to pay up to $100 per day that he or she was abusing the eviction guidelines.

In every unlawful detainer trial, the judge will listen to both the landlord's side of the case and the tenant's side. It helps to have an accomplished attorney on your side when you go to trial, so that you can present your side of the argument convincingly. If the tenant is able to show that he or she has been a good resident, the judge may decide in his or her favor. In this case, the renter will not be evicted, and the landlord may need to pay fees for an unnecessary unlawful detainer. The judge might also require that the landlord pay any attorney's fees the defendant accumulated during the trial.

When the judge decides in favor of the landlord on an unlawful detainer case, then the tenant will be issued a writ of possession. This document gives that person at least five days to leave voluntarily. If the renters refuse to leave the apartment within the five days, then the sheriff can physically remove and lock the tenant out of the apartment, and seize any left behind possessions. Tenants who refuse to leave are also normally issued a $600 fine and receive a mark on their criminal record that will last 7 years. Courts may award a landlord any unpaid rent at the time of the eviction, as well as compensation for any property damages, court fees, or attorney's costs.

A landlord is not the only person that can evict a tenant. In California and some other states, a city attorney or a prosecutor can sometimes file an unlawful detainer against a tenant based on an arrest report. If the tenant is involved in drug dealing, manufacturing weapons, illegal possession of weapons or ammunition, or an unlawful use of drugs, then some jurisdictions allow the city to evict the resident. In order to post an eviction notice, the city attorney must first contact the landlord and tell him or her to evict the tenants. If the landlord does not carry out the command within 30 days, then the city attorney can take things into his or her hands. The tenant must be notified of the nature of the action and told his or her possible defenses. Like in any crime, the evicted suspect has the right to an attorney.

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