Unlawful detainer proceedings: When a landlord wants to end a tenancy involuntarily after the tenant has taken possession of the rental premises, the landlord must take certain legal steps to do so. An unlawful detainer proceeding is an accelerated method for recovery of possession of leased premises. It is a limited proceeding designed to permit a landlord to recover possession of real property from a tenant who is wrongfully in possession. (Because of its summary character, an unlawful detainer action is not a suitable vehicle for trying complicated ownership issues involving allegations of fraud.)
Like civil actions generally, unlawful detainer actions are initiated by the filing of a complaint, issuance of a summons, and service of the complaint and summons on the defendant.
Landlords in California must first follow all requirements for eviction proceedings prescribed in California statutes and follow any applicable local ordinances.
Three-day and 30-day notice: An unlawful detainer proceeding is usually initiated by the landlord's serving a 3-day or 30-day notice on the tenant. A landlord must strictly comply with the statutory requirements for service of the notice to quit the leased premises.
Among 3-day notices are notices to quit ("leave"), notices to perform covenant or quit, and notices to pay rent or quit. Three-day notices to quit are used when a tenant has allegedly breached ("broken") a covenant ("agreement") in the lease that cannot be cured. A 3-day notice to perform covenant or quit is used when there has been a curable breach other than nonpayment of rent, for example, breach of a covenant not to assign or sublet the premises. The most common notice is a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit.
A landlord’s choice to declare a forfeiture of the lease or rental agreement on a 3-day notice is nullified and the lease or rental agreement remains in effect if the tenant performs within 3 days after service of the notice or if the landlord waives the breach after service of the notice.
A 30-day notice to quit usually addresses a situation in which the landlord wishes to terminate an indefinite-term tenancy (that is, a holdover tenant or a tenant on a month-to-month tenancy). The landlord and tenant may provide by agreement at the time the tenancy is created that either party may terminate the tenancy on less than 30 days’ notice, but the agreement may not provide for less than 7 days’ notice.
No notice is required for an unlawful detainer action based on the expiration of a fixed-term tenancy, nor is notice required when a tenant occupies the property as part of his or her employment (for example, as an apartment manager), which has been terminated.
Filing a complaint: After you have complied with applicable notice requirements, the residential eviction process is begun by filing the appropriate documents.