Evidence for landlords to bring to an unlawful detainer (eviction) trial

When a rental relationship reaches a boiling point and tenants dispute an unlawful detainer (eviction) action, it’s time to be composed and compile evidence to bring to court. As the plaintiff, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to show the tenant has not paid rent or the tenant has violated other provisions of the lease.

All too often, we have seen what would be clear cut cases for evictions take a turn on us because the landlord goes to court with nothing but verbal accusations. Ultimately, a judge or jury will determine which party prevails after reviewing testimony, documents, and other evidence. To strengthen your chances of winning, we’ve put together of list of items to bring, though we hasten to say this list is not exhaustive.

  • The Notice to Pay Rent or Quit, or the Notice to Cure or Quit if based on another reason;

  • The lease agreement with the tenant’s signature;

  • Correspondence with the tenant, which may include letters you wrote or received about the rental unit, emails, text messages, etc.

  • Photos or videos that show unsafe or unhealthy conditions if the landlord alleges the tenant damaged the unit;

  • Building inspection reports, if applicable;

  • Bills from any contractors you hired to fix alleged damages;

  • Evidence from neighbors of the tenant if they lodged complaints against the tenant you are attempting to evict

  • Other witnesses who have personal knowledge of the facts.

A word about subpoenas

If you have a witness you’d like to bring to court -- a neighboring tenant who can testify about a nuisance created by the defendant, for example - it is best to get a subpoena issued and properly served. This compels the witness to appear and is prudent even with cooperative witnesses. Keep in mind, many employers require that a subpoena be served in order for the employee to be excused from work.

Non-payment of rent cases

When a tenant hasn’t paid rent, owners should come equipped with bank statements and tenant ledgers. In our earlier article on five common reasons an eviction action is lost, we said that accepting rent during the unlawful detainer process is a surefire reason to lose in court. If you accept any money from the tenant after the expiration of the notice to pay rent, the tenancy has begun anew and you have forfeited your right to proceed with the eviction - we have to start over.

Parting thoughts

It’s been said that what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence, and so we urge landlords to have all of their ducks in a row once you get the dreaded call that the tenant is disputing the eviction.