Tenants’ Rights Regarding Evictions in California

This is a guide to the basics of the rules for removing a tenant (renter) from a rental unit. It can be complicated so be sure to speak to a lawyer for your situation.

Also be sure to read our full Guide to Tenants Rights.

Can my landlord remove or evict me at any time for any reason?

If your building is rent controlled, you may only be evicted for certain reasons.

If your building is NOT rent controlled, then the landlord may be able to terminate the tenancy and remove you. First of all, if you are on a lease for a specific time period (usually the first year), then as long as you are not violating the lease or doing any criminal activity, you cannot be evicted. But usually after the 1st year lease is up, it is automatically converted to a month-to-month lease. If you are month-to-month, you may be removed or evicted for any reason other than illegal discrimination (see our full Guide to Tenants’ Rights). If you are concerned about getting evicted in the future, you may want to ask your landlord for a specific time commitment (such as 2 years or more). Of course, they can always say no to this.

What is a “no-cause eviction”?

A no cause eviction is when the landlord removes a tenant without giving any particular reason. For the most part, this is legal, unless the building is under rent control.

This is generally distinct from a “no-fault” eviction, in which the tenant is evicted for good cause, but the reason is not the tenant’s fault. For example, the landlord may take the rental off the market completely, which would be a “good cause,” but is not the tenant’s fault.

If I am getting evicted, does the landlord need to pay me a relocation fee?

Only if you are under rent control and only for certain reasons.

Can my landlord change the locks on me?

If your landlord is legally allowed to evict you, they must follow a very specific process called “unlawful detainer” proceeding.1California Civil Code Sec 789 See below.

The landlord may NOT just change the locks (and definitely can’t physically remove you – that would likely be assault or battery).

What is the removal or eviction process?

The process of removing a tenant from a unit is complicated.

If you are on a month to month lease, generally the landlord must give you a 60 day notice to end a periodic tenancy if you and every other tenant or resident have lived in the rental unit for a year or more.2Civil Code Section 1946.1(b)

However, the landlord can give you 30 days advance written notice in either of the following situations:

  1. Any tenant or resident has lived in the rental unit less than one year;3Civil Code Section 1946. Civil Code Section 1946.1(c). or
  2. The landlord has contracted to sell the rental unit to another person who intends to occupy it for at least a year after your tenancy ends. In addition, all of the following must be true in order for the landlord to give you a 30-day notice:
    a) The landlord must have opened escrow with a licensed escrow agent or real
    estate broker, and
    b) The landlord must have given you the 30-day notice no later than 120 days after opening the escrow, and
    c) The landlord must not previously have given you a 30-day or 60-day notice, and
    d) The rental unit must be one that can be sold separately from any other
    dwelling unit. (For example, a house or a condominium can be sold separately
    from another dwelling unit.)4Civil Code Section 1946.1(d)

If a tenant is being evicted from a foreclosed property, the landlord must give 90 days notice to end a month-to-month tenancy. To remove a tenant from a foreclosed property where the tenant is on a lease with a specified time period (for example, 1 year), the tenant has the right to stay through the end of the lease.5Keep Californians Housed Act; Section 1161b of the Code of Civil Procedure

The landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant only three (3) days notice (“eviction notice”) if the tenant has done any of the following:6Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(2)-(4)

  1. Failed to pay the rent.
  2. Violated any provision of the lease or rental agreement.
  3. Materially damaged the rental property (“committed waste”).
  4. Substantially interfered with other tenants (“committed a nuisance”).
  5. Committed domestic violence or sexual assault against, or stalked another tenant or subtenant on the premises.
  6. Used the premises for an unlawful purpose.
  7. Engaged in drug dealing, unlawfully used, cultivated, imported, or manufactured illegal drugs.
  8. Using the building or property to conduct dogfighting or cockfighting.
  9. Unlawful conduct involving weapons or ammunition.

If the tenant has not left after any of the above proper notice is given, the tenant is deemed to be unlawfully occupying the unit.

To remove the tenant, the landlord would need to file an “unlawful detainer” proceeding. If a tenant is properly served with an unlawful detainer, the tenant has 5 days to file a response. Then the hearing will occur usually within 20 days after that. If the court decides in favor of the landlord, the tenant then has 5 days to leave before the police physically forces the tenant out. The tenant may appeal the decision, but must vacate during the appeal, unless the tenant can convince the judge that the tenant will face extreme hardship. For more info, read the CA Tenant’s Guide.

Can I evict my roommate or house guest?

See below.

What are my rights if I become homeless?

See our Guide to Laws about Homelessness in California.


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