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San Francisco Unlawful Detainer Lawyer
Unlawful Detainer Attorney in San Francisco, CA
Successful landlords know the importance of following the landlord-tenant law. On the other hand, a responsible tenant must obey the tenancy rules specified on the lease or rental agreement. Failure to do so may lead to termination of the tenancy contract and eviction.
A landlord may decide to evict a tenant for various reasons. Eviction may occur due to
- the tenant’s non-payment of rent
- Property damages,
- Violation of the lease or rental agreement
- Criminal or illegal activity
- The landlord wants to take possession of the rental property
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Whether you're dealing with a landlord-tenant dispute or addressing a real estate concern in California, our San Francisco real estate attorneys are here to protect your rights.
What is an Eviction?
What is an Eviction?
Eviction is an official legal process that a property owner must follow to have the tenant vacate the premises. The eviction process isn’t as easy as it may seem. Eviction laws may vary from state to state. If you’re a landlord, consult a reliable San Francisco landlord-tenant attorney to help you file an eviction case in compliance with the state law.
Before evicting a tenant, the landlord must legally terminate the tenancy by issuing an eviction notice. A landlord cannot forcibly evict a tenant without proper notice. If the tenant refuses to move out even after receiving the written notice, the landlord will be forced to file an eviction lawsuit known as forcible entry or unlawful detainer lawsuit. Then, the eviction process will start.
- Working electricity
- Sufficient hot water during cold weather
- Sturdy roof, floors, and walls
- Reasonable protection from criminal intrusion
- Up-to-date conformity to building codes
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- No significant danger from environmental hazards (such as lead, asbestos, and mold)
What is an Unlawful Detainer?
An unlawful detainer is an eviction proceeding that allows a landlord to regain possession of the rental property. It refers to tenants who continue to live in a rental property even after their lease agreement has been terminated or expired. These tenants are fully aware that they have no legal rights to stay in the rental property but refuse to leave the premises even after a Notice to Vacate is served.
There are legal steps you can take to get these tenants out. A seasoned eviction lawyer in San Francisco can help you understand what an unlawful detainer is and the process of filing the eviction lawsuit to get the tenant out of your rental property.
Here are some of the common reasons a landlord will file an unlawful detainer lawsuit:
- The tenant fails to pay rent on time
- The landlord cancels the lease agreement
- The tenant refuses to leave even after the lease expires
What Are the Steps in Filing an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit?
The landlord can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in a court with proper jurisdiction to start the eviction proceedings. The following are the recommended steps on how to force out a tenant who refuses to leave your rental or commercial property:
Issue a Written Eviction Notice
Before filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit, the landlord must serve the tenant with a written termination notice. The most common termination notices are a three-day notice to pay or quit; or a thirty-day notice of termination of tenancy rights.
As a landlord, you need to serve notice in unlawful detainer proceedings before you can take any court action. It’s illegal to use “self-help” eviction tactics to remove the tenant. A qualified San Francisco landlord-tenant lawyer can help you draft your eviction notice correctly and ensure that your tenant is served legally.
File a Complaint with Court
Suppose the renter is still living in your rental property even after the eviction notice is served. In that case, you need to start filing a formal petition or complaint with the local court to get the tenant out of the premises. You need to fill out the paperwork and pay a filing fee. You must serve the tenant with the notice of the unlawful detainer along with the complete court documents.
As the landlord, you must state the facts that support your claim that the tenant is illegally staying on your rental property. Once this complaint has been served on the tenant, the tenant has a limited number of days to respond by filing their response.
Wait for the Tenant’s Response
Tenants are expected to file a response to the complaint or petition. Generally, a tenant will be given five days to respond to the unlawful detainer once they have received the notice. A tenant can answer in one of the following ways:
Tenant Voluntarily Moves Out
Tenants may choose to respond to the summons by simply moving out of the rental property voluntarily. This is the most expected response that the landlord expects from the renters. This can happen if your tenants realize that you mean business and decide to move out before further legal action is taken against them.
Tenant Answers and Contests Unlawful Detainer
If the tenant contests the unlawful detainer within the grace period, they will send a copy of the response to the landlord and the court. The allegations will then be contested, and a trial date will be scheduled within 30 days. The tenant has to pay a court fee or request a fee waiver to file the response formally. A competent San Francisco eviction lawyer can help you prepare against the possible defenses that a tenant may have available to them in an unlawful detainer action.
Tenant Does Not Respond
If the tenant does not properly answer the complaint within the given time, a default judgment may be entered against them. Failure to respond to the unlawful detainer leads to an automatic ruling in favor of the landlord. For a default judgment to be issued against the tenant, the owner must officially apply for a default.
Attend the Court Hearing
Once the landlord files the required paperwork, a court hearing on the unlawful detainer will be scheduled in most states. Suppose the tenant does not show up to this trial. In that case, the judge will automatically rule in favor of the landlord even without a hearing. Otherwise, the judge will listen to the testimony of both parties – the landlord and the tenant. The court will issue a judgment based on the facts and evidence presented during the trial before evicting or denying a landlord’s case.
As the landlord, you must prove that the tenant has breached your legally binding lease agreement. Furthermore, you have to show that even though you have properly served the tenant with written notice to vacate the property, the tenant still refused to leave.
The court will determine whether the tenant should be evicted and will consider any defenses the tenant may have. If the court finds that the landlord has proved their case, it will enter a judgment against the tenant for eviction. The landlord may be given a monetary judgment for the amount of money owed for rent, attorney fees, and costs. He may be granted a writ for possession of the premises.
Writ of Execution
If the court has made a judgment in favor of the landlord, they will issue a Writ of Execution for the landlord, whether by trial or default. This allows the landlord to regain possession of the rental property. Once the writ is issued, it can be executed by local law enforcement officials. This means the landlord is not allowed to exercise self-help by attempting to remove the renter directly.
The designated official will post a notice on the tenant’s door stating that the tenant must vacate the rental property within a certain number of days, depending on state law. Suppose the tenant is still in the property after the grace period. In that case, the official will forcibly remove the tenant from the property. Based on these factors, the landlord has the right to regain possession of the rental unit.
Hire an Eviction Lawyer Today!
Landlord-tenant law is complex and constantly changing. Whether you’re the landlord or the tenant, it is your responsibility to know your rights and duties. You need to understand how to evaluate your situation and understand how the state laws apply to you.
If you are involved in an unlawful detainer claim, it is highly recommended to consult our experienced San Francisco unlawful detainer attorneys at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. Our real estate law firm will protect your legal rights as a landlord and will represent you in court, as needed. We will ensure that your trial is fair and that all relevant information on your case is presented in your defense.
Real Solutions for Real Estate Problems
Real Solutions for Real Estate Problems
“The truth is, 99 percent of cases do not go to trial. The two sides eventually come to an agreement and settle. We know this from the thousands of cases we have handled. Therefore, we critically analyze our client’s situation to see if we can help them find an agreement earlier rather than later. The difference will mean enormous savings in time and legal fees.
We will do everything in our power to successfully resolve your landlord-tenant case or real estate dispute in as little time as possible. We have the resources to take on complex real estate cases and the size to keep you from becoming more than just a case file.”
Steven Adair MacDonald
& Partners, P.C.
& Partners, P.C.
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