Eviction — The Unlawful Detainer Process

Did you know? You can download this file as a PDF in ENGLISH and SPANISH.

 

When the landlord has given you a notice (3-day, 30-day, etc.) and the time in the notice has ended, he/she can file eviction papers with the Courts. This is called an “Unlawful Detainer” Complaint. After the case is filed, the landlord will properly “serve” you with the Complaint and the Summons. You should seek legal advice immediately. 

 

You will have 5 calendar days from the date you receive these papers to respond by filing your own “Answer” with the court. To count the five days in which to file an answer, you do not count the day you are served, day one is the day after you were served, and you have until court closes on the fifth day. Weekends are counted as part of the 5 days unless the last day falls on a weekend day, then you will have the next full court day.

What Happens If You Don’t Answer?

Your response to the Unlawful Detainer Complaint is called an “Answer.” If you do not file an Answer within 5 calendar days, the landlord may take a default judgment against you. This means that you will lose the case without the chance to go to court and tell your story to the Judge. If a default is entered, the Sheriff will come out and post a “Notice to Vacate” on your door, giving you about 5 days to move out. If you do not move out before the date given in the notice, the Sheriff will physically remove you and lock up your belongings in the premises. If your belongings are locked inside the premises, you will have to pay the storage costs to get back your property, within 15 days.

What Happens If You Do Answer?

If you do file an Answer within the 5 calendar days, you will get a court hearing. The trial will be set within 10 to 20 days from the date you file your Answer. If you win the trial, you will get to stay in the premises. If the court orders you to pay back rent, you will have five days to pay the amount.

What Happens If You Lose at Trial?

If you lose the trial, the landlord can have the Sheriff serve you with a “Notice to Vacate” that will set a date to evict you, usually in about 5 days. If you do not move out within the  5 days, the Sheriff will physically remove you and lock up the premises. If your possessions are locked inside, you may have to pay storage costs (but not back rent) before your property is returned to you. It is best to remove all of your belongings before you vacate the premises. 

Help is Available!

Depending on how a notice or a complaint is served and written, you may have other legal options not discussed here. You should obtain legal advice as soon as possible after receiving an eviction notice or papers from your landlord or the Courts.

If you are low-income and cannot afford an attorney, you may call Central California Legal Services, Inc. (559) 570-1200 or 1-800-675-8001, to see if you qualify for FREE legal advice. DO NOT WAIT - EVERY DAY COUNTS. The longer you wait, the less chance you have to respond to your case.

If you receive any notice from your landlord or the Court that you do not understand, you can call our offices located in Fresno (559) 570-1200, Visalia (559) 733-8770, Merced (209) 723-5466 for free legal advice.