How to Evict a Tenant in 3 Steps

How to Legally Evict a Tenant from Property in California – Process

Updated on September 15, 2023

Property ownership comes with its own set of challenges, especially when the property in question comes with an existing tenant. Whether you’ve recently acquired a new property or are considering a purchase, understanding the legal intricacies of tenant removal is crucial.
This guide aims to shed light on the procedures, rights, and strategies associated with evicting a tenant from a property you’ve purchased. From navigating the maze of eviction laws to ensuring your rights as a new property owner are protected, we delve deep into the subject, providing actionable insights and expert advice. By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to handle tenant removal with confidence and legal precision.
In this blog post, we discuss how to evict a tenant in California from property you just purchased.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding Legal Procedures: Before attempting to remove a tenant, familiarize yourself with the local and state laws governing tenant eviction
  • Tenant Types Matter: The type of tenancy (e.g., month-to-month, fixed-term) dictates the eviction process. Recognize the type of tenancy before taking any action.
  • Tenant Estoppel Certificate: This document, provided by the tenant, outlines their understanding of the tenancy terms. It’s a crucial tool for landlords
  • Effective Communication: Always maintain open and clear communication with tenants. Proper documentation of all interactions can be invaluable
  • Eviction Isn’t Immediate: The eviction process requires specific steps, including providing notice and, in some cases, awaiting the expiration of a lease.
  • Seek Legal Counsel: Eviction laws can be complex. Engaging with a real estate lawyer ensures you’re making informed decisions and protecting your rights
  • Rent Control Restrictions: In certain areas, rent control laws can affect the eviction process, especially for month-to-month tenants.
  • Alternative Solutions: Before resorting to eviction, consider negotiating with the tenant. In some cases, offering compensation or other incentives can lead to a mutually beneficial resolution.
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California Law for Tenant Eviction – Steps

A tenant’s possession of real property creates a protected property right. Different types of tenancies have different legal rights that will dictate whether and how you can terminate that tenancy. Thus, the first step to evict a tenant from property in California, is to determine the type of tenancy the tenant enjoys. This step should actually occur before close of escrow during the due diligence period to ensure the nature of any tenancies at the property is suitable for your needs.

1. Reviewing Lease Provisions in California

To that end, during the due diligence period, you should review any relevant leases and ask the seller about the nature of any tenancies at the property that do not have any written agreements. Equally important is to ask for a tenant estoppel certificate. A tenant estoppel certificate is a statement by the tenant where they describe what they believe to be the terms of their tenancy and any unresolved issues during their tenancy. The tenant is then estopped (prevented) from claiming otherwise after the new purchaser purchases the property. This can be quite valuable and we strongly recommend all potential purchasers obtain tenant estoppel certificates during the escrow due diligence period.
After you discover the tenant’s claimed terms,  you may even be able to negotiate with the seller to terminate any tenancies during escrow so that the property will be vacant upon close. If that is not feasible, after close of escrow, how long does it take to evict a holdover tenant will depend on the type of tenancy.

2. Strategies to Evict a Tenant

With respect to a holdover tenant or a tenant at sufferance, you may be entitled to remove that tenant by immediately filing an unlawful detainer action without providing prior written notice. This is because this type of tenant is considered a trespasser. In this situation, it is important to ensure that you do not accept any rent to inadvertently create a tenancy.
With respect to a fixed term tenancy, it will likely be very difficult to remove that tenant. This is because a tenant in possession pursuant to a fixed term lease is entitled to possession of the property through the fixed term. Accordingly, you should expect to take the property subject to any fixed term leases, unless the subject lease contains a termination provision. However, you may still be able to remove a fixed term tenant if the tenant agrees. This will often require consideration from the owner in the form of monetary compensation. Otherwise, you may simply have to wait until a tenant breaches the lease and terminate the tenancy on that basis.

3. Notice Periods for Tenant Eviction in California

With respect to a month-to-month tenant or a tenancy at will, you can remove the tenant by sending a 30 or 60 day notice to terminate the tenancy. Once the 30 or 60 day period expires, a tenant is required to return possession of the Property. If the tenant fails to do so, the next step is to file an unlawful detainer action to evict the tenant. For residential property, your ability to terminate the periodic tenancy may be subject to rent control. This may even require a relocation fees in certain situations. Accordingly, before you send a notice to terminate, it is very important to review any relevant rent control restrictions to determine acceptable grounds for terminating a tenancy.
Schorr Law has experience with resolving purchase and sale disputes and issues related to tenants following a sale. If your’re you looking for purchase sale disputes lawyers in Los Angeles, Schorr Law has the top rated real estate attorney in Los Angeles. To schedule a consultation, please contact us by phone, email, or send us a message through our contact form. Call 310-954-1877 to schedule a consult.

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