You have to file in The Superior Court of California. This is the only court with the power to hear the case. Every county in California has a Superior Court. Many counties have several branches. Make sure you eFile the action and list the right branch of the right county (called venue).
Venue means the county where a court with jurisdiction can hear a lawsuit. For an Unlawful Detainer, the venue is the county where the property is. The Superior Court of Orange County has several branches called "Justice Centers." You must eFile your case and list the correct Justice Center where the property is located. CLICK HERE for a listing of the Justice Centers and the cities that are within each Justice Center’s venue.
EXCEPTION: If the amount owed exceeds $25,000 then all cases are filed at the Central Justice Center-in the Unlimited Civil Division.
If you are using the State Fillable forms, (see above "What Forms Do I Need?") you may wish to print out this section to follow as you complete the forms. If you are using a Tutorial Forms Program you can skip the rest of this section and follow the instructions given by the tutorial.
The first page of your complaint must start with a caption. Leave the top right side of the caption blank. The clerk will use that area to stamp the date the complaint was filed. On the top left complete as follows:Where the Court Can Contact You:
Insert your name address and phone number.
Insert the name and address of the court that you list as the correct Justice Center where the property is located. (see above "Where Do I File the Complaint?").
The plaintiff is the person who starts the Unlawful Detainer. In most cases the plaintiff is the landlord. The plaintiff has to be competent and over 18. They have to be able to state that the property is theirs. An agent, such as a property manager, cannot sue in his or her own name.
You can be a landlord even if you do not own the property. For example, if you sublet the property or part of the property, you are the subtenant’s landlord. You can start an Unlawful Detainer against the subtenant. Also, if the owner lets a management company give out leases in its own name, the management company is the landlord. The management company can start an Unlawful Detainer action. But, if the lease is in the owner’s name, the management company is not the landlord. The owner is the plaintiff.
If the plaintiff is a corporation, they must be represented by an attorney.
The person or people the plaintiff wants to evict is the defendant. The defendant must live on the property when you file. Try to name all of the adults who live at the property as defendants. It can be hard to enforce the judgment against anyone who is not named in the complaint as a defendant. You do not have to name children under 18 as defendants. You can also add unknown defendants by checking the box "DOES" and entering "DOES 1 to (insert a number such as 10 or 100)," etc.
This has to do with how much damages you ask for in the final section of the complaint. If you ask for more than $25,000 in damages, the case is a "General Civil" Case. If you ask for less, it is a "Limited Civil" case. You have to state if you are asking for more or less than $10,000.Interests and costs do not count as damages. For example, in a limited civil case, you can get:
Most Unlawful Detainers about residences are Limited Civil actions. Usually they are not for more than $10,000. Refer to the amount that you put on your Notice.
ONLY the plaintiff or their lawyer can decide what to state in the complaint. It is illegal for anyone else to do it. Court staff can answer procedural questions, but they cannot fill out or tell you how to complete the complaint.
The complaint has to identify who or what the plaintiff is.For example, the plaintiff could be a:
The complaint has to include the address of the property. Or it has to give its legal description. The complaint also has to state that the defendant is using the property right now.
The complaint has to include how the plaintiff is connected with the property.For example, if the plaintiff is a:
The complaint has to state what relationship the plaintiff and defendant have. The relationship is the basis for the action. Most Unlawful Detainer actions are about a landlord-tenant relationship.But there are other relationships that can be the basis for an Unlawful Detainer:
The complaint has to give facts that prove the defendant is staying on the property illegally. For a landlord-tenant case, the complaint has to explain how the lease ended.If the landlord canceled the lease, the complaint has to:
If there is rent control or eviction control, the complaint has to state that the plaintiff followed those laws. If the property is a mobile home or a mobile home park or government subsidized housing, then the complaint has to state that the plaintiff followed the special laws, called statutes, for those places.
An Unlawful Detainer action is about who gets to stay on the property. But you can also ask for money.In general, you can only ask for money for:
If you ask for general damages, you have to state what the daily fair rental value is. This means how much you could rent the property for on the 1st day the defendant stayed illegally. In landlord-tenant cases, this is the day the lease ended or was canceled. It should be close to 1/30 of one month’s rent.
When there is a judgment against the defendant, the court calculates the damages. They multiply the daily fair rental value by the number of days the defendant stayed illegally until the judgment.
The "Plaintiff’s Request" section has to ask to get the property back. If the action is about the lease being canceled early, it also has to ask for "forfeiture" of the lease.You can also ask for:
When you sign the complaint you are swearing, under penalty of perjury, that what the complaint says is true. This is called the verification. The court does this so people will not file false complaints.
You have to date and sign the verification.
REMEMBER: if you are having trouble completing the fillable forms, you can use a tutorial forms program.
Leave the case number blank.
The Summons (SUM-130) provides the defendant with important information about how to contest the complaint.THERE ARE FOUR SECTIONS IN A SUMMONS:
Do not complete the case number, clerk’s name or date. Items 4 and 5 should also be left blank for the server to complete.
The Civil Case Cover Sheet (CM-010) is used for statistical purposes only. It is not served on the defendant.Complete the:
Figuring out how to properly complete the complaint may be complicated. You can lose your court case if the judge determines that your complaint is defective. The court’s Self-Help Center staff can provide you with general information; however, you may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in Unlawful Detainers. The cost of an attorney may be cheaper than the additional rent and damages you lose if your case is delayed or dismissed for a legal defect.
You can find the location of the Self-Help Centers, Lawyer Referral Services, and online information about landlord-tenant law on the General Information page of the section of the website.
Go to the Filing & Serving An Unlawful Detainer Complaint page.