Evictions can be complicated. The landlord (plaintiff) and tenant (defendant) do not have to get a lawyer but it is a good idea to at least talk to a lawyer.To learn more about the eviction process read:
Select the first available workshop/clinic to insure that you file your response on time with the court.
First, the landlord has to give you a notice to move out or give you a chance to fix the problem (like paying the rent). If you do not do what the notice asks before the time in the notice runs out, then the landlord may file an unlawful detainer case (called a Summons and Complaint) with the Superior Court to evict you. You can read more about the different types of notices.
The landlord who files the Complaint is called the plaintiff and the tenants are called defendants. After you are served with the Summons and Complaint, if you want to defend yourself in the case, you have to file a response to the lawsuit with the court. The response has to be in the proper legal form. It is not enough to call or write a letter to the landlord. It is also not enough to write a letter to the court.
You have five days to file your response if you were personally served. You count the first day as the day after you were served the complaint. If the fifth day falls on a court holiday or weekend, you have until the following day to file. (Example, if you were served on Monday, then the 5th day is the next Monday because day 5 falls on a Saturday). If another person was served on your behalf, a copy of the Summons and Complaint must also be mailed to you. This is call substitute service and you have 15 days to respond from the postmark date.
If you miss the deadline to respond, you may still be able to file a response. If the plaintiff has not yet filed his or her "Request to Enter Default" stating that you have not responded and asking the court to cut off your time to respond, you may still file your response. Act quickly, because you do not know when the plaintiff will ask for the default. If there is more than 1 defendant in the case, each defendant who wants to present a defense needs to respond.
You can also try and settle the case out of court. To read more about this, go to the Settling Out of Court page.
There are different ways to respond. Most defendants respond by filing an Answer - Unlawful Detainer (UD-105). But if you believe the plaintiff’s eviction notice, the Complaint, or service of the Complaint is defective, you may file a motion such as a motion to quash (void) service or a demurrer challenging the notice or the Complaint:
A motion to quash service is filed when the defendant states that the plaintiff did not serve the Summons and Complaint properly. If the defendant wins, the plaintiff has to re-serve the Summons and Complaint. If the plaintiff wins, the tenant will have to answer the Complaint promptly.
There are no motion or demurrer forms. Talk to a lawyer or find a legal aid office to help you make sure you file whatever response is best in your situation.
If they want, defendants can share an Answer form. But each defendant must sign the form and pay a separate filing fee.To make sure you fill out the Answer fully:
After you fill out your Answer, you must serve the plaintiff with a copy and then file it with the court before your deadline runs out.The steps are:
There is a fee to file an answer. The fee is based upon the number of defendants filing a response and the amount you are being sued for. If you are being sued for $25,000 or under, check the fee schedule for unlimited civil actions. If you are being sued for over $25,000, check the fee schedule for unlimited civil actions.
If you cannot afford the filing fees, you may qualify to have the fees waived. You can fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (FW-001). You can read more about fee waivers.
If you need help completing the fee waiver forms, you may wish to use a free tutorial
program which automatically selects and completes forms for the user based on a question and answer process for a self-represented litigant. This program is available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. If you are attending one of the workshops/clinics mentioned about, you can also receive help completing the fee waiver forms.
After you file your answer, a trial will be scheduled within 20 days from the date the plaintiff makes a request for a trial date.Go to the California Courts Guide For Tenants to learn about:
If you have a disability and need help, fill out a Request for Accommodations By Persons With Disabilities (MC-410) and file it with the court as soon as possible, but at least five days before the trial date.
By law, in California all official court business must be conducted in English. When one of the parties or witnesses in a case does not speak English well, that person will need a court interpreter (who speaks English and the non-English speaker’s first language) so he or she can understand what is going on and talk to the judge.
In some cases (like criminal cases) the interpreter is paid for by the court and may be a court employee. However, in civil cases, with the exception of domestic violence proceedings in Family Law cases, the person needing the interpreter must get and pay for his or her own interpreter or get a friend to help interpret. It is your responsibility to get your own interpreter. You can ask a friend, relative, or someone else to interpret for you when you go to court. Do not ask a child to interpret for you.
Keep in mind that just because someone you know speaks both English and your first language does not mean he or she would be a good interpreter. A court interpreter needs to be familiar with legal terms and concepts in both English and your first language, and most people are not. That is why it is very important you have an interpreter with experience. If you decide to use a noncertified or nonregistered interpreter, such as a friend or relative, have the person read the instructions and duties for interpreting in the information sheet called Foreign Language Interpreter’s Duties-Civil and Small Claims (INT-200).
To make sure you get an experienced court interpreter, you should consider a professional interpreter who has passed the required examinations and has officially registered and been approved as a court interpreter by the Judicial Council of California. .There are 2 types of officially-approved court interpreters in California:
Certified court interpreters: Only interpreters who pass the Court Interpreter Certification Examination and register with the Judicial Council are referred to as “certified" in these 13 languages:
American Sign Language, Arabic, Cantonese, Eastern Armenian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Western Armenian.
The California Courts website has a list of certified and registered interpreters for oral interpretation. Certified and registered interpreters may also translate documents, however, the California Courts does not test or certify an interpreter's written translation skills. The American Translators Association can also interpret documents.
Using a court interpreter can be awkward because you have to go through another person to get your information or talk to the judge. Follow these tips when using an interpreter in a courtroom:
Do not interrupt, even if someone in court says something bad about you. You will get a chance to speak.
Note: There are also American Sign Language interpreters and real time captioning for parties and witnesses that are deaf or hard-of-hearing (or have another disability). The court will provide a sign language interpreter or court reporter for you or other accommodation you may need. You can read more about this in the For Persons With Disabilities Requesting Accommodations section of this website to learn about the court's policy for accommodating persons with disabilities. Make your request as soon as possible, but at least 5 days prior to the hearing.
Children may be brought to the court and may stay in "Children’s Chambers" while their caregivers are conducting business with the court. Children’s Chambers is a safe drop-in center for children that lets children be children instead of spending long sessions listening to adult interactions that could be painful or frightening.
You can read more about which courts offer a Children’s Chambers and the guidelines.
You can find the location of the court’s Self-Help Centers, Lawyer Referral Services, and general information about landlord-tenant law on the General Information page.