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Get unlawful detainer case expunged from records?

Los Angeles, CA |

My landlord filed an unlawful detainer suit against me about four weeks ago. An aside, but an important one: the suit is retaliatory for complaints I made to the housing department. The landlord demanded I withdraw the complaints or he would sue for eviction.

OK, back to where we were: He has not set the case for trial. I called him to ask when he was going to set the case for trial and he said he would not set the case for trial-that he intended to destroy my credit by having the (unheard) unlawful detainer case on my record. He then repeated his demand: withdraw the complaints and he would drop the case.

Assuming 60 days pass and the UD becomes public record, can I move to have it expunged after a judge issues an OSC and dismisses the charges? How would I do this?

(Cont'd in comments)

I've done a bit of research and discovered the landlord was half-right about the credit threat: The unheard (or dismissed) UD case would not affect my credit, but will affect my future ability to rent--landlords do not want potential tenants with past UD actions of any type.

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Attorney answers 2


Disclaimer: The materials provided below are informational and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

The expungement process is used for criminal convictions. An unlawful detainer (UD) action is a civil matter. Although having a UD action filed against you is not favorable, what would really hurt your credit is if you lose the case and have a judgment entered against you. You need to properly defend the case on its merits. If you prevail, judgment will be entered against your landlord and hurt his/her credit. If your lease contains an attorney's fees provision, upon prevailing you will be able to recover your attorney's fees from your landlord. Be sure to consult your own attorney to protect your legal rights.



I'd like to defend the case on its merits, but the landlord has told me that he will not bring the case to trial. I'm in limbo here. What can I do?

Robin Mashal

Robin Mashal


(See Disclaimers Above): Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to request the clerk to set a trial date, you may bring a motion for summary judgment, or you may be able to bring a motion to dismiss the case for failure to prosecute.


No. As Attorney Mashal indicates, expungement can only be used for criminal convictions. An unlawful detainer (UD) action is a civil matter.

Although cases dismissed within the first 60 days are sealed, the same is not true after the 60 days, or if you lose.

After the 60 days have transpired, you cannot get an unlawful detainer lawsuit removed from public records. And it will certainly hamper your ability to rent again in the future.

Frank W. Chen is licensed to practice law in the State of California. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.