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How to Evict a Roommate in California

It usually starts out well enough. A couple of friends or several of them decided to become roommates to share expenses or a friend asked to move in because he or she needed a place to stay. Things were fine for awhile, but after time, they started to go downhill and now it's time for the roommate to leave. Except he or she won't go. So what to do? How is a roommate evicted in California?


Evicting a California Roommate is Tricky

As living expenses rise, more people are living together as a way to save money. As a result, more people are discovering that living with a roommate is not all it's cracked up to be. Some roommates want to party all night.


Others think house rules apply to everyone but them. In California, getting rid of an obnoxious roommate, though, depends on a number of factors.

Is the Roommate on the Lease?

If the roommate is on the lease, then the landlord is the only one who can evict him or her, but even a landlord needs a legally valid reason to throw someone out if that person is on the lease. These reasons usually include not paying rent, using the home for illegal purposes or otherwise breaking the terms of the lease in some way.

The exception to this is if the roommate is threatening or violent towards people in the home. If this is the case, the court can issue a restraining order and the roommate must leave immediately.

It's worth remembering that a roommate on the lease is actually a co-tenant and has much right to live in the rental space as anyone else on the lease.

Now What?

Unfortunately for California residents, options are limited if the roommate is on the lease. Asking him or her nicely to leave is an option, but this doesn't always work and can lead to more conflict.

If the roommate signed an agreement outlining rules of the house, everything from noise limits to cleaning duties and he or she breaks the agreement, then he or she probably cannot be evicted but can be sued for damages in small claims court.

Examples might include the roommate having loud parties that keep people in the house from getting workd done if they work remotely or the roommate not paying his or her share of the utilities.

While these situations could be grounds for suing, the risk is that suing may anger the roommate but not enough to make him or her move out.

renters rights

Talking to the landlord to see if he can get the roommate to budge is an option, but most landlords are content to leave things be as long as they are getting their rent and their property is not being damaged.

An exception would be the landlord seeing that the roommate is breaking the lease in some way, such as selling drugs from the home (illegal use of the property) or has a dog when pets are specifically forbidden in the lease.

This can be tricky, though, because the roommate could claim that the dog belongs to everyone in the home and the landlord could decide to evict everyone at once. In California, this is particularly true if the lease has a joint and/or several liability clause, which essentially means that all the tenants on a lease can be held responsible for what other tenants do.

The landlord might be a reasonable person (or corporation), though, and decide to evict only the roommate. If this is the case, it will take time. Theh landlord must follow the law, which involves giving the roommate notice of the eviction and time to remedy the situation.


For example, if the grounds for the eviction are that the roommate has a dog and pets are forbidden according to the lease, then the landlord has to give the roommate adequate time to find the dog a new home. If the roommate does this, then he or she cannot be evicted. He or she can stay in the home and chances are he or she will not be a happy camper.

It is possible, too, that the roommate may just ignore the eviction notice and decide to stay in the home. In this case, the landlord will have to go to court to ask a judge to tell the roommate to go. If the judge agrees, then the sheriff will come to escort the roommate out of the property. If, though, the landlord loses in court, then the roommate can stay.

Things That Cannot Be Done with Regard to a California Roommate

No matter how obnoxious a roommate is, there are things that the state of California says cannot be legally be done to make him or her vacate the home.

For example, he cannot be threatened. The home's locks cannot be changed. The roommate's personal property cannot be stolen. Anyone who does these things may be looking at criminal charges. No roommate is worth that.

Is the Roommate Not on the Lease?

If the roommate is not on the lease, then there are more options for getting rid of him or her.

This can be tricky, though, too. If the roommate is not on the lease because he or she came to stay without the landlord knowing, then everyone in the home could be breaking the lease terms and end up facing eviction.


If, though, the roommate has the landlord's express or implicit permission - many landlords will let a girlfriend or boyfriend stay in the home without signing the lease, or they will turn a blind eye to an extra tenant - then the roommate can be evicted.

In California, there are, though, rules to follow. Even without his or her name on a written lease the roommate is still treated as if he or she had a month-to-month lease. California requires that the roommate receive at least 30 days notice to find a new place to live and move out. Please verify this timeframe with an attorney as California eviction laws may change.


This deadline must be put in writing and state why the living arrangement is being terminated and when the roommate is expected to be out of the property. This notice should be sent to the roommate via certified mail so there is proof he or she received it. A copy should be kept.

If the roommate ignores the eviction notice, then an unlawful detainer should be filed with the lawsuit in court, just as the landlord would do. The evictor should be prepared to state the case clearly in court and present any and all relevant documentation. He or she should also be prepared to be stuck with the roommate and have to pay his legal costs if he or she wins the case.

If the landlord is aware of the roommate and is a decent person or company, then he might help evict the roommate. The downside with this is that the landlord - even a tolerant one - might just decide to evict everyone and start fresh. He would have legal grounds to do so if the roommate is not on the lease because people in the house have broken the lease by having the illegal tenant.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is evicting a roommate in California is not easy. Evicting anyone anywhere is not easy, even for landlords with solid legal grounds. It is a complicated, contentious and often costly endeavor.

Get Help

Ask a California Eviction Law Question, Get an Answer ASAP!

If, though, it is time to evict a roommate, then it is a good idea to talk to an experienced California eviction lawyer before proceeding. One small misstep could mean that the obnoxious roommate is not the only one having to look for a new home.



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