The unlawful detainer process typically takes between 30 to 45 days. If you did not pay rent, you usually don't have many valid defenses. Nevertheless, if you file an Answer to the Complaint for Unlawful Detainer, you will probably buy yourself a bit more time than if you just let the landlord obtain a default judgment against you.
Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.
After the three days expire, the landlord must serve you with a summons and complaint. You will have five days to answer. If you do not answer, he can take a default the next business day and arrange for the sheriff to evict you. The sheriff must give you at least five days notice; how much notice they actually give depends on the county. Because of weekends and delays, this process generally takes about two weeks.
If you do answer, the landlord will ask the court to set the case for trial. The clerk must do so within twenty days. A landlord who wins at trial usually immediately gets a judgment and takes it to the sheriff, who again must give you at least five days notice before removing you. As stated, this process might take a month or so.
Note that you must answer the complaint under penalty of perjury. If you do not have any defenses or argument that the landlord has no right to evict you, your answer will leave you in a weak position. The landlord can then move for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings and speed up the process.
In any event, you do not want to have an unlawful-detainer go to judgment against you. You want to be out before that and have the landlord dismiss the case.
In addition to the very good advice already provided, I urge you to continue to negotiate for more time to pay and to make some gesture of good faith by paying something to the owner NOW. Tenants with a 9 year record of on-time payment are not easy to find. (I know at least one of my old landlords would agree.) Staying on the best terms possible with you landlord is very important at this point.