In California, landlords must follow strict eviction guidelines to ensure fairness and protect tenants’ rights. Landlords can only evict renters from their property if they have a valid, legal reason for doing so. Common reasons include nonpayment of rent, breaching a lease agreement, or using the rental property for illegal activities. If a landlord has a just cause to evict, they must first give the tenant a proper eviction notice.

If the tenant does not respond to or correct the lease agreement violation within the specified timeframe, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (called an unlawful detainer). The landlord must physically serve the renter with papers that contain everything they accuse the renter of owing. This is a requirement of due process, which protects tenants’ rights to be heard in court. The renter will have five days, excluding weekends and holidays, to file what is called an Answer.

This is a formal response to the landlord’s complaint and sets out the reasons why the renter should not be evicted. The tenant will also set out the grounds on which they are seeking a reversal or dismissal of the unlawful detainer action.

Although a tenant can represent themselves in an unlawful detainer action, it is highly recommended that they hire an attorney to assist them. A lawyer can review the complaint and evidence against them and let them know if there are any legal defenses available. They can also represent the tenant at the trial and argue on their behalf.