5 surefire ways to lose an unlawful detainer (eviction) action
The eviction process involves serving the tenant with a notice, waiting for the notice to end, and filing an unlawful detainer action if the tenant fails to pay the rent or correct the underlying behaviors they are told to cure. Yet prevailing in what would initially appear as a clear-cut case is not guaranteed if there are procedural missteps.
Here are five ways that you are likely to use an unlawful detainer action.
Improper rent demand
When the amount of rent you demand is higher than what is owed, you can lose your case. In an earlier article, we urged caution when raising the rents because the law prescribes how much you can raise the rent. Landlords can even be responsible for paying back the tenant when rent money was accepted as part of an illegal rent increase.
Drafting an improper 3-day notice to pay rent or quit
A recurring theme we see at MT evictions is landlords using stale, outdated or bad documentation. Worse yet, some landlords in their demands have asked for late fees, which is prohibited under California law. If you are using a template notice or an old notice, it's time to take a look at your documentation and ensure it is up-to-date.
Failure to serve 3-day notice correctly
Assuming that the notice is otherwise proper, it must be served to the tenant correctly. Regardless of the merits of the case or the legality of the documentation, the 3-day notice must be served in accordance with the law.
During the unlawful detainer action, you deposit money for a future rent payment
Once you have commenced the eviction process, you can accept a penny more from the tenant because in essence, this re-establishes the rental relationship and you waive the right to proceed with the eviction. All too often at MT Evictions, we learn that the landlord has taken rent money after a 3-day notice to pay rent has been served, and the process has to start over.
Even if all other requirements are met, the tenant can claim that the unit is inhabitable and thus, is not responsible for the rent. If the landlord fails to rectify any habitability issues of the premises, it will tank their ability to be successful in an eviction. Adequate and safe heating, effective weatherproofing, plumbing and gas facilities, maintained stairs and common areas, hot and cold running water, and rodent, vermin-free common areas are just some of the many landlord responsibilities. The duty to provide a habitable dwelling is known as the warranty of habitability and is implied in every residential lease agreement throughout California.
The above list is certainly not exhaustive, but some of the more common mistakes we've encountered.
Get it right the first time.
Incorrect notices and other errors could render your entire eviction invalid, costing you more money and time because you would have to begin the process over again. To avoid pitfalls, contact MT Evictions.