While a landlord has the right to evict a tenant from a rental problem if that person is doing a great deal of property damage or has stopped paying their rent, California does expect that landlord to obey the letter of the law. Failing to do so can result in the police showing up and arresting the landlord.
California has clear rules about the eviction process. The first thing landlord has to do is provide the tenant with written notice that their tenancy is terminated. If possible, this termination should be done in person and with a witness nearby. At this point, most landlords give their tenants an opportunity to correct whatever behavior prompted the behavior, such as having a pet where they’re not allowed, disrupting other tenants, or failing to stay on top of monthly rent checks.
There are several different types of notices that landlords can serve tenants, depending upon the reason for eviction. An eviction notice must first be served properly and the tenant must have failed to comply, pay, or vacate within the specified timeframe. This must happen before the landlord can begin the eviction court process by serving you an “unlawful detainer” eviction lawsuit, called a Summons & Complaint. This is not a complete list, but the most common notices to vacate are:
✔ 3-day notice to pay or vacate
✔ 10-day notice to comply with the terms of the rental agreement or vacate
✔ 3-day notice for waste or nuisance
✔ 20-day notice to terminate tenancy (a “no cause” notice)
You can read more about it at http://tenantsunion.org/en/rights/eviction-process
Can my landlord change the locks on my door or turn off my utilities?
If the tenant doesn’t change their behavior or if they refuse to leave the property, it’s time for the landlord to take the next step. This is the point that many landlords find themselves in legal trouble. First, you aren’t allowed to simply wait until the tenant leaves their apartment and then change the locks, making it impossible for them to get back in. Second, you can’t contact the utility company and simply have them shut down the utilities to the property with the hope that this forces the tenant to leave.
Doing either of these things puts the tenant in a position where they’re free to contact the police and let them know what just happened, and even though the tenant isn’t supposed to be around anymore, that won’t stop the police from arresting the landlord. In this event, the landlord will be charged with a misdemeanor lockout, a charge that can seriously jeopardize the landlord’s reputation and trigger a lot of legal fees.
When the tenants refuse to leave, the best course of action available to the landlord is taking the tenant to court. If the court agrees that the tenant violated the rental agreement, they’ll send a police officer to the property to remove the tenant. This might mean that the property remains occupied and the landlord won’t be getting rent checks but it also means the landlord won’t spend the rest of their life saddled with a criminal record. Plus, there’s always a chance that the court will order the tenant to pay back rent and cover any property damage they’re responsible for.
Keep it in mind, that it’s illegal for landlords to evict a tenant simply so they can raise the monthly rental fee on a rent-controlled property.