Are you a landlord wondering how an eviction in California works? Not sure what your responsibilities are during an eviction or how to serve one? Read on for our step-by-step guide through the entire process.

California law allows landlords to evict their tenants for certain reasons, such as when they fail to pay rent, breach the terms of the agreement, or stay after the lease has expired.

Generally speaking, a tenant eviction process in California takes roughly 5 to 8 weeks. However, it can take much longer if a tenant contests their removal.

It's important to note that a court order is a prerequisite for the successful eviction of a tenant. You cannot try to evict a tenant by any other means, such as shutting down their utilities, locking them out, or removing their belongings.

The eviction must also be founded on legitimate reasons, and not for retaliatory or discriminatory motives. You can read more about examples of discrimination in our Fair Housing article.

The following is a basic overview of the eviction process in California.

Legal Grounds to Evict a Tenant in California

It goes without saying that a landlord must have a legal reason in order to evict a tenant from their rental premises. The legal reasons are as follows.

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Absence of a lease/ expiry of a lease agreement
  • Violation of the lease agreement
  • Illegal activity


Once you have a legal reason, you must then follow a specific eviction process.

Notice of Eviction in California

Next, you must terminate the lease agreement by serving the tenant with an eviction notice. You must serve the tenant with a proper eviction notice for the eviction to be successful.

To evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, you must serve them with a 3 days notice to pay or quit. This notice will allow the tenant to either pay the past-due rent within 3 days or move out. You can continue with the eviction process if the tenant doesn’t pay and continues to occupy the property after the notice expires.

To evict a tenant who doesn’t have a lease or one whose one has expired, you must serve them either a 30 or 60 days notice. If the tenant has occupied the unit for less than a year, you must serve them a 30 days notice. And if they have occupied the property for more than a year, you must serve them a 60 days notice.

Unlike some other notices, these notices don’t give the tenant an option to cure a violation. Their only option is to leave. If the notice expires and the tenant hasn’t left, you can move to court for further help.


To evict a tenant for a lease violation, you must provide them 3 days to cure or 3 days’ to quit notice. The 3 days to cure applies to violations that are curable. Such as, failing to keep the unit sanitary, having unauthorized pets, or using the property for wrongful purposes.

If the tenant stops or rectifies the violation within 3 days, you must cease further eviction proceedings against them. However, if they don’t, you can escalate the matter to a relevant court.

The 3 days notice to quit, on the other hand, applies to violations that can’t be cured. A good example of such a violation is where the tenant causes excessive property damage.

To evict a tenant for engaging in illegal activity, you must give them a 3 days notice to quit before proceeding with their eviction. In California, illegal activity includes unlawful business activity, criminal threats, and criminal nuisances.

If the notice expires and the tenant is still occupying their rented premises, you can move to court and file for their eviction.

You can deliver the eviction notice in either of the following ways.

  • In person
  • Leaving a notice with an adult occupant AND mailing a copy to the tenant
  • Posting the notice in a prominent area on the property like on the front door, and then mailing a copy to the tenant through registered mail


Unlawful Detainer in California

If the notice expires and the tenant hasn’t moved out, you can go to court and file an Unlawful Detainer with the Superior Court. This will cost you around $240 and $435.

After successful notarization by the court’s clerk, the court will issue you with a summons. The complaint (Unlawful Detainer) and the summons will need to be served on the tenant by a qualified process server. A process server can be a sheriff, a marshal, or a registered process server.

The process server will then serve the summons and complaint in either of the following ways.

  • Giving a copy to the tenant in person.
  • Leaving a copy with the person in charge at the tenant’s workplace and then mailing another copy to the tenant via first-class mail.
  • Posting a copy at the front door or any other noticeable area on the property.

After the service, the tenant will have an opportunity to respond to the eviction allegations. They may provide the following defenses with an aim to either change or stop their eviction.

  • The eviction notice had errors.
  • They cured the violation (for curable violations such as nonpayment of rent).
  • The eviction was in retaliation for exercising any of their rights.
  • The eviction was pegged on discriminatory reasons.
  • The ground for their eviction was exaggerated.

Court Hearing & Judgment

You will need to file a request for a trial date hearing. Once you do, it’ll be scheduled within 20 days after filing it. If the judgment is in your favor, the court will issue you with a Writ of Execution.

At this point, the tenant will have no other option but to leave. They will specifically have 5 days to move out after being served with a copy of the Writ of Execution.

Bottom Line

We hope our guide has helped you better understand the ins and outs of the eviction process in California. However, every case is unique, and if you have any questions get in touch with JTS Property Management.

We are a highly qualified and expert property management company that serves Fair Oaks, Folsom, El Dorado Hills, Roseville, Granite Bay, and Rocklin.

As a full-service property management company, we can help you sort out all your property management needs. From filling vacancies to screening tenants to collecting rent and much more! Get in touch today to learn more!

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.