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Facing Eviction in California? Know Your Legal Rights
If you live in California and are facing eviction, particularly during these unprecedented times, it is vital that you understand your legal rights. Your landlord cannot just throw you out of your home without warning or good reason.
Your Eviction Rights
In general, your landlord has the right to evict you if you breach the contract you signed when you moved into his property.
For example, if your lease says that you are not allowed to have pets and you adopt a cat to live with you, then you have breached your contract and the landlord has grounds to evict you.
This does NOT mean, however, that he can demand that you leave that day or lock you out of your home.
The Eviction Process
In all cases, your landlord must give you written notice of his intent to evict.
California has three types of written notice for tenants with a long-term lease, depending on the violation, and one for tenants without a lease or who are on a month-to-month lease.
Tenants with a Long Term Lease
If you have a long term lease, then you might receive one of these eviction notices.
Three Day Notice to Pay Rent: If you have not paid the rent when due, this notice lets you know that you have three days to pay it in full or be evicted.
Three Day Notice to Cure: If you have breached your lease, this notice lets you know that you have three days to correct the violation or be evicted.
Three Day Unconditional Quit Notice: If you commit a serious violation, this notice lets you know that you must vacate your home without an opportunity to correct the problem.
Examples of serious violations include causing significant property damage, engaging in illegal activity and subletting the home without permission.
Tenants Without a Long Term Lease
If you have a month-to-month lease and have lived in the home for less than a year, then a landlord must give you a written 30 day notice to vacate the property.
If you have lived in the home for more than a year, then the landlord must give you a written 60 day notice to vacate the home.
If you receive an eviction notice and do not abide by it - in other words, decide to stay in the home despite the notice - then your landlord must file eviction papers with the court to get you to leave.
When he does this, you will receive a summons to appear before a judge where you will have the opportunity to defend yourself and explain why you think the landlord does not have the right to evict you.
As a tenant, you have the law on your side if you can prove that your landlord is:
1) Evicting you in retaliation. For example, if he asked you to help him paint the property and you refused.
2) Not holding up his end of the lease. For example, if the plumbing broke and he took a month to fix it. In that case, your landlord is not providing you with a habitable home as most state laws require.
3) Discriminating against you based on your sex, national origin, familial status, race, ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, color, creed or marital status, violating both state and federal fair housing laws.
In court you want to present a calm, reasoned argument as to why you should be allowed to stay in your home. Bring any documentation you have such as pictures of unrepaired items or text messages of inappropriate landlord requests that will bolster your case.
The bottom line is that you can defend your right to stay in your home. Many tenants do and prevail.
What Happens if You Lose
If you do appear in court and lose your case, then the court will give you five days to vacate your home. You might also be ordered to pay your landlord's legal fees.
If you do not vacate the property within the given timeframe, then the landlord has the legal right to have the sheriff evict you.
If you are facing eviction in California and cannot work things out with your landlord on your own, then it is time to talk to a legal professional who can help you protect your rights.
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