We expect more renting households to come fact-to-face with the eviction process over the next month or two than over the past three years. The Los Angeles County moratorium expired in March. The Beverly Hills moratorium was allowed to expire last May and June 1st rent repayment deadline now looms with no prospect of extension. Households that cannot pay the rent or the rent arrears may find a 3-day pay-or-quit notice posted. Shortly thereafter comes the court summons for unlawful detainer. What’s a tenant to do? Here we present webinars, books and tools to explain the eviction process.
To understand how complicated is the eviction process one needs only glance at this excerpt from the state statutes that concerns nonpayment of rent and unlawful detainer:
A tenant of real property, for a term less than life, or the executor or administrator of the tenant’s estate heretofore qualified and now acting or hereafter to be qualified and act, is guilty of unlawful detainer: […] When the tenant continues in possession, in person or by subtenant, without the permission of the landlord, or the successor in estate of the landlord, if applicable, after default in the payment of rent, pursuant to the lease or agreement under which the property is held, and three days’ notice, excluding Saturdays and Sundays and other judicial holidays, in writing, requiring its payment, stating the amount that is due, the name, telephone number, and address of the person to whom the rent payment shall be made, and, if payment may be made personally, the usual days and hours that person will be available to receive the payment (provided that, if the address does not allow for personal delivery, then it shall be conclusively presumed that upon the mailing of any rent or notice to the owner by the tenant to the name and address provided, the notice or rent is deemed received by the owner on the date posted, if the tenant can show proof of mailing to the name and address provided by the owner), or the number of an account in a financial institution into which the rental payment may be made, and the name and street address of the institution (provided that the institution is located within five miles of the rental property), or if an electronic funds transfer procedure has been previously established, that payment may be made pursuant to that procedure, or possession of the property, shall have been served upon the tenant and if there is a subtenant in actual occupation of the premises, also upon the subtenant. — Code of Civil Procedure §1161(2)
We had to read that several times to get the gist: the lawfully-served 3-day notice to pay-or-quit is the gateway to eviction which is a legal process that puts the tenant on the back foot at every step. We should emphasize that a tenant served with a 3-day notice and cannot pay, or who has been served with court summons for unlawful detainer, should find legal representation if possible. Representation is important because unrepresented tenants generally don’t fare well in the courts.
Here we highlight resources that explain the eviction process and/or provide information for a self-help defense. However we caution tenants not to rely on them for a self-help defense if representation is otherwise available. To that end we include some links to free or low-cost referral services. If you have had a positive experience with an attorney or a referral service please get in touch with Renters Alliance.
Eviction Process Webinars
State assemblyman Richard Bloom last year convened this very helpful webinar to explain the process. Titled Understanding the Eviction Process – Know Your Rights it features attorneys with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles which also does help low-income households with eviction defense (see more below).
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles dives into the eviction process in greater detail in an informative webinar titled Unlawful Detainer Trial Preparation. Here the focus is on the process as it reaches the court.
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles gets more specific in a webinar titled Eviction Defense: How to Complete Your Unlawful Detainer Answer which focuses specifically on answering an unlawful detainer summons.
The statewide umbrella organization for legal-services nonprofits like Legal Aid Foundation is the Legal Aid Association of California. It has posted a number of very helpful webinars among which is an overview of the eviction process titled Unlawful Detainers A-Z: Basics of UDs.
See also the Legal Aid Association of California’s deeper-dive webinar about the first steps in the eviction process titled Responding to the Case.
Additional webinars concern Litigating Habitability Cases, Legal Rights to Animals That Help People with Disabilities, and Basic Landlord-Tenant Rights in Disaster.
The essential general tenant rights resource is the state Department of Real Estate’s California Tenants: A Guide to Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities (2022). It is our first stop for questions about tenant-landlord law not least because the footnote point to underlying statutes.
With regard to the eviction process the California Tenants’ Guide includes a summary description of the eviction process which we have excerpted from pages 86–107.
Nolo Press publishes a variety of very useful legal guides for tenants and landlords. Though our digital copies are a few years out of date we often turn to them for specific questions. Contact Nolo Press to buy updated guides.
- California Landlords Law Book Rights and Responsibilities 17th edition (2017)
- California Tenants Rights 20th edition (2016)
The Superior Court Riverside County division provides an overview of the eviction process in this handy unlawful detainer process flowchart
Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles portal
The AccessLACourt portal is the online gateway to legal forms, case filings and transcripts, records search, courthouse location and contact information and much, much more. So overwhelming is the portal it is best to know exactly what is needed. For general self-help guidance from the court see the Self-Help Guide to Eviction.
Superior Court Self-Help Guide to Eviction
The courts have posted much useful information for tenants who are dealing with an eviction proceeding. Self-directed folks may enjoy paging through the material though it can be overwhelming to others. Start with the eviction process overview for tenants or short-cut right to the needed material using the index. Find all the necessary forms posted online too.
Tenant Power Toolkit
Answering a court summons for unlawful detainer is one of the most important but intimidating tasks a renting household will face. A timely response is essential to avoid a default judgment in superior court. Too many eviction cases proceed directly to default and by then it’s too late. However the summons is written by lawyers for lawyers. Making sense of the template — let alone marshaling an effective response — is a challenge so a tenant is put on the back foot from the get-go.
That’s where the Tenant Power Toolkit comes in. “We designed the Tenant Power Toolkit to help tenants fight their eviction even when they can’t find a lawyer. Using this tool to respond to your eviction can help you stay in your home longer, giving you more time to find a lawyer.”
The Toolkit was created by a collaborative including nonprofits Debt Collective, Los Angeles Tenants Union and ACCE Action, all working on behalf of tenants, with support from university initiatives Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality & Democracy. Read more about the toolkit or proceed right to the tool to file an online unlawful detainer answer.
Legal Services & Referrals
City of Beverly Hills contracts with nonprofit Bet Tzedek for housing-related legal services for tenants and specifically also for seniors. Call (323) 939–0506 and choose the option for Beverly Hills. Legal assistance is means-tested and limited to low-income households, however seniors of any means should also get help. Know that response time can be 24–48 hours. A tenant who has received a 3-day notice or a court summons should make that clear in the voicemail.
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles assists low-income residents throughout Los Angeles County. Call LAFLA’s intake hotline at (800) 399–4529 or find the Santa Monica office at 1640 5th Street #124 in Santa Monica.
The Beverly Hills Bar Association used to provide legal referrals but we have not spoken with a tenant who has reached out to the bar association. (The website is inconclusive and the association didn’t respond to a question about it.) Call (310) 601–2422 or find the office at 9420 Wilshire Blvd.
California superior court proves links to two legal aid lookup and referral services which may be free or low-cost depending on income:
- LawHelpCA is a collaboration among the State Bar of California, Legal Aid of California, and Legal Services Corporation and it is easy to use. Our search query turned up many potential attorneys however the most promising results point back to Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
- Find a Los Angeles Lawyer Referral Service is provided by the State Bar. We can’t vouch for the attorney referrals because we have not encountered those firms. So take the referrals with a grain of salt because, after all, this is an attorney’s lead generator.
Before contacting an organization or attorney for legal services it is essential to prepare an account of the circumstances that led to the immediate circumstance. That should include the notice or summons and also the events (with dates) and if applicable a rent payment ledger. (See this sample template). Be prepared to provide a ballpark figure for annual total household income because some legal services means-test.
The Beverly Hills rent stabilization office provides no guidance or support for tenants who face eviction. Most of the material is written for property owners. Unfortunately we can’t even recommend the posted video ‘workshops’ because they are tiresome to sort through for something useful. That’s why we provide these resources. Again we recommend legal representation for any tenant facing eviction — if that representation can be found.