Terminations And Evictions

California Tenants, A Guide to Residential Tenants' and Landlords' Rights and Responsibilities

WHEN CAN A LANDLORD TERMINATE A TENANCY?

A landlord can terminate (end) a month-to-month tenancy simply by giving the tenant 30 or 60 days' advance written notice. (For an explanation of month-to-month tenancies, see Rental Agreements and Leases; for an explanation of 30-day and 60-day notices, see Giving and Receiving Proper Notice and Written Notices of Termination below.)

However, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant only three days' advance written notice if the tenant has done any of the following:276

  • Failed to pay the rent.
  • Violated any provision of the lease or rental agreement.
  • Materially damaged the rental property ("committed waste").
  • Substantially interfered with other tenants ("committed a nuisance").277
  • Committed domestic violence or sexual assault against, or stalked another tenant or subtenant on the premises.
  • Used the rental property for an unlawful purpose.278
  • Engaged in drug dealing, unlawfully used, cultivated, imported, or manufactured illegal drugs.
  • Using the building or property to conduct dogfighting or cockfighting.278.1
  • Unlawful conduct involving weapons or ammunition.279

Three-day notices are further explained below.

If the tenant doesn't voluntarily move out after the landlord has properly given the required notice to the tenant, the landlord can evict the tenant; but in order to evict the tenant, the landlord must first file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in Superior Court.

WRITTEN NOTICES OF TERMINATION

30-day or 60-day notice

A landlord who wants to terminate (end) a month-to-month tenancy can do so by properly serving a written 30-day or 60-day notice on the tenant. Generally, a 30-day or 60-day notice doesn't have to state the landlord's reason for ending the tenancy. The 30-Day or 60-Day Notice is discussed in Giving and Receiving Proper Notice, and proper service of notices is discussed below.

In some localities or circumstances, special rules may apply to 30-day or 60-day notices:

  • Some rent control cities require "just cause" for eviction, and the landlord's notice must state the reason for termination.
  • Subsidized housing programs may limit allowable reasons for eviction, and may require that the notice state one of these reasons (see Giving and Receiving Proper Notice).
  • Some reasons for eviction are unlawful. For example, an eviction cannot be retaliatory or discriminatory (see Retaliatory Actions, Evictions and Discrimination).
  • A landlord cannot evict a tenant for the reason that the water heater must be braced to protect against earthquake damage.280

How to respond to a 30-day or 60-day notice

Suppose that the landlord has properly served you with a 30-day or 60-day notice to terminate the tenancy. During the 30-day or 60-day period, you should either move out or try to make arrangements with the landlord to stay. If you want to continue to occupy the rental unit, ask the landlord what you need to do to make that possible. While a landlord is not required to state a reason for giving a 30-day or 60-day notice, most landlords do have a reason for terminating a tenancy. If you want to stay, it's helpful to know what you can do to make your relationship with the landlord a better one.

If your landlord agrees that you can continue to occupy the rental unit, it's important that your agreement with the landlord be in writing. The written agreement might be an attachment to your lease or rental agreement that both the landlord and you sign, or an exchange of letters between you and the landlord that states the details of your agreement. Having the agreement in writing ensures that you and your landlord are clear about your future relationship.

If the landlord doesn't agree to your staying, you will have to move out. You should do so by the end of the 30th or 60th day. Take all of your personal belongings with you, and leave the rental property at least as clean as when you rented it. This will help with the refund of your security deposit (see "Refunds of Security Deposits").

If you have haven't moved at the end of the 30th or 60th day, you will be unlawfully occupying the rental unit, and the landlord can file an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit to evict you.

If you believe that the landlord has acted unlawfully in giving you a 30-day or 60-day notice, or that you have a valid defense to an unlawful detainer lawsuit, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons of contesting the landlord's likely eviction lawsuit against you if you don't move out. As part of your decision-making process, you may wish to consult with a lawyer, legal aid organization, tenant-landlord program, or housing clinic. (See "Getting Help From a Third Party".)

Three-day notice

A landlord can use a written three-day notice (eviction notice) if the tenant has done any of the following:281

  • Failed to pay the rent.
  • Violated any provision of the lease or rental agreement.
  • Materially damaged the rental property ("committed waste").
  • Used the rental property for an unlawful purpose.
  • Substantially interfered with other tenants ("committed a nuisance").
  • Committed domestic violence or sexual assault against, or stalked another tenant or subtenant on the premises.282
  • Engaged in drug dealing, unlawfully used, cultivated, imported, or manufactured illegal drugs.283
  • Using the building or property to conduct dogfighting or cockfighting.283.1
  • Unlawful conduct involving weapons or ammunition.284

If the landlord gives the tenant a three-day notice because the tenant hasn't paid the rent, the notice must accurately state the amount of rent that is due. In addition, the notice must state:

  • The name, address and telephone number of the person to whom the rent must be paid.
  • If payment may be made in person, the usual days and hours that the person is available to receive the rent payment. If the address does not accept personal deliveries, then you can mail the rent to the owner at the name and address stated in the three-day notice. If you can show proof that you mailed the rent to the stated name and address (for example, a receipt for certified mail), the law assumes that the rent payment is received by the owner on the date of postmark.
  • Instead, the notice may state the name, street address and account number of the financial institution where the rent payment may be made (if the institution is within five miles of the unit). If an electronic fund transfer procedure was previously established for paying rent, payment may be made using that procedure.285

The landlord normally cannot require that the tenant pay the past-due rent in cash. (See "Living in the Rental Unit".)

If the three-day notice is based on one of the other seven conditions listed above, the notice must either describe the tenant's violation of the lease or rental agreement, or describe the tenant's other improper conduct. The three-day notice must be properly served on the tenant (see Proper Service of Notices).

Depending on the type of violation, the three-day notice demands either (1) that the tenant correct the violation or leave the rental unit, or (2) that the tenant leave the rental unit. If the violation involves something that the tenant can correct (for example, the tenant hasn't paid the rent, or the tenant has a pet but the lease doesn't permit pets), the notice must give the tenant the option to correct the violation.

Failing to pay the rent, and most violations of the terms of a lease or rental agreement, can be corrected. In these situations, the three-day notice must give the tenant the option to correct the violation. However, the other three conditions listed above cannot be corrected, and the three-day notice can simply order the tenant to leave at the end of the three days.

If you pay the rent that is due or correct a correctable violation of the lease or rental agreement during the three-day notice period, the tenancy continues.286 If you attempt to pay all the past-due rent demanded after the three-day period expires, the landlord can either file a lawsuit to evict you or accept the rent payment. If the landlord accepts the rent, the landlord waives (gives up) the right to evict you based on late payment of rent.287

See below on how to count the three days.

How to respond to a three-day notice

Suppose that your landlord properly serves you a three-day notice because you haven't paid the rent. You must either pay the full amount of rent that is due or vacate (leave) the rental unit by the end of the third day, unless you have a legal basis for not paying rent (see The "repair and deduct" remedy and "rent withholding remedy").

If you decide to pay the rent that is due, it's best to call the landlord or the landlord's agent immediately. Tell the landlord or agent that you intend to pay the amount demanded in the notice (if it is correct) and arrange for a time and location where you can deliver the payment to the landlord or agent. You must pay the rent by the end of the third day. You should pay the unpaid rent by cashier's check, money order, or cash. Whatever the form of payment, be sure to get a receipt signed by the landlord or agent that shows the date and the amount of the payment.

The landlord normally cannot require that you pay the unpaid rent in cash. (See "Living in the Rental Unit".)

If the amount of rent demanded is not correct, it's essential that you discuss this with the landlord or agent immediately, and offer to pay the amount that is actually due. Make this offer orally and in writing, and keep a copy of the written offer. The landlord's notice is not legally effective if it demands more rent than is actually due, or if it includes any charges other than for past-due rent (for example, late charges, unpaid utility charges, dishonored check fees, or interest).288

If the amount of rent demanded is correct and doesn't include any other charges, and if you decide not to pay, then you and any other occupants should move out promptly.

If you stay beyond the three days without paying the rent that is properly due, you will be occupying the rental unit unlawfully. The landlord then has a single, powerful remedy: a court action to evict you and recover the unpaid rent (called an "unlawful detainer [eviction] lawsuit" [see The Eviction Process]). Your failure to pay the rent and to leave promptly may also become part of your credit history, which could affect your ability to rent from other landlords.

If the three-day notice is based on something other than failure to pay rent, the notice will state whether you can correct the problem and remain in the rental unit (see three-day notice above). If the problem can be corrected and you want to stay in the rental unit, you must correct the problem by the end of the third day. Once you have corrected the problem, you should promptly notify the landlord or the property manager.

Even if the notice does not state that you can correct the problem, you can try to persuade the landlord that you will correct the problem and be a good tenant if the landlord agrees to your staying. If the landlord agrees, keep your promise immediately. The landlord should then waive (forgive) your violation, and you should be able to stay in the rental unit. However, in the event of another violation, the landlord probably will serve you with another three-day notice, or with a 30-day or 60-day notice.

If you believe that the landlord has acted unlawfully in giving you a three-day notice, or that you have a valid defense to an unlawful detainer lawsuit, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons of contesting the landlord's likely eviction lawsuit against you if you don't move out. As part of your decision-making process, you may wish to consult with a lawyer, legal aid organization, tenant-landlord program, or housing clinic. (See "Getting Help From a Third Party".)

How to count the three days

Begin counting the three days on the first day after the day the notice was served. If the third day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, the three-day period will not expire until the following Monday or nonholiday.289 (See "proper service of notices" below for a discussion of service of the notice and the beginning of the notice period.)

PROPER SERVICE OF NOTICES

A landlord's three-day, 30-day, or 60-day notice to a tenant must be "served" properly to be legally effective. The terms "serve" and "service"refer to procedures required by the law. These procedures are designed to increase the likelihood that the person to whom notice is given actually receives the notice.

A landlord can serve a three-day notice on the tenant in one of three ways: by personal service, by substituted service, or by posting and mailing. The landlord, the landlord's agent, or anyone over 18 can serve a notice on a tenant.

  • Personal service - To serve you personally, the person serving the notice must hand you the notice (or leave it with you if you refuse to take it).290 The three-day period begins the day after you receive the notice.
  • Substituted service on another person -If the landlord can't find you at home, the landlord should try to serve you personally at work. If the landlord can't find you at home or at work, the landlord can use "substituted service" instead of serving you personally.

    To comply with the rules on substituted service, the person serving the notice must leave the notice with a person of "suitable age and discretion" at your home or work and also mail a copy of the notice to you at home.291 A person of suitable age and discretion normally would be an adult at your home or workplace, or a teenage member of your household.

    Service of the notice is legally complete when both of these steps have been completed. The three-day period begins the day after both steps have been completed.
  • Posting and mailing - If the landlord can't serve the notice on you personally or by substituted service, the notice can be served by taping or tacking a copy to the rental unit in a conspicuous place (such as the front door of the rental unit) and by mailing another copy to you at the rental unit's address.292 (This service method is commonly called "posting and mailing" or "nailing and mailing.")

    Service of the notice is not complete until the copy of the notice has been mailed. The three-day period begins the day after the notice was posted and mailed.293

How to count the three days is explained above

A landlord can use any of these methods to serve a 30-day or 60-day notice on a tenant, or can send the notice to the tenant by certified or registered mail with return receipt requested.294


276Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(2)-(4).
277Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(4).
278 Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(4), Civil Code Section 1946.7.
278.1Civil Code Procedure 1161(4), Civil Code Section 3482.8.
279Civil Code Section 3485.
280Health and Safety Code Section 19211(c).
281Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(2)-(4).
282Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(4). Civil Code Section 1946.7.
283Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(4). Health and Safety Code Section 11571.1; California Landlord-Tenant Practice, Section 3.7 (Cal. Cont. Ed. Bar 2011).
283.1Civil Code Procedure 1161(4), Civil Code Section 3482.8.
284Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(4), Civil Code Section 3485(a).
285Code of Civil Procedure Section 1162 paragraph 2. See California Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Paragraphs 7:104.10-7:104.12, 7:119.3-7:110.4 (Rutter Group 2011).
286Code of Civil Procedure Section 1161(3).
287EDC Associates Ltd. v. Gutierrez (1984) 153 Cal.App.3d 167 [200 Cal.Rptr. 333].
288Brown, Warner and Portman, The California Landlord's Law Book, Vol. I: Rights & Responsibilities, pages 314-315 (NOLO Press 2011).
289Code of Civil Procedure Sections 12,12a.
290Code of Civil Procedure Section 1162(1).
291 Code of Civil Procedure Section 1162(2).
292Code of Civil Procedure Section 1162(3).
293Walters v. Meyers (1990) 226 Cal.App.3d Supp. 15, 19-20 [277 Cal.Rptr. 316, 318-319] (service of a three-day notice is effective from the date the notice is mailed, not from the date the tenant received it). See California Practice Guide, Landlord-Tenant, Paragraphs 7:186-7:188.2 (Rutter Group 2011) (mailing three-day notice does not extend time to respond).
294Civil Code Section 1946,  Code of Civil Procedure Section 1162.