Written by attorney Scott Robert Rights

Overview of the Eviction Process in San Diego, California

Overview of the Eviction Process in San Diego, California

The process of eviction in California is only one facet of landlord tenant law. For a landlord who wants to recover the possession of his or her property, it is imperative to be familiar with the legal process. If one ends up not crossing the t’s or dotting the i’s, the eviction will grind to a halt and be delayed. Most often the landlord will then incur more fees, and additional lost rent. Although a lawyer may not be needed for simple evictions, it can speed up the recovery of the property and prevent mistakes that would delay the eviction.

The relationship will most likely be formed at the application stage. There are many laws regarding fees charged and what can be requested during the application process. Once a tenant is selected, the agreement is formalized in a contract known as the rental agreement. Many rental agreements will address issues such as late fees, utilities, and forfeiture of the rental agreement. It is very important to know what the agreement requires in terminating the agreement or even when the agreement can be terminated.

The most common reason to terminate a lease is for non-payment of rent. San Diego has some unique “Just Cause" laws, and these laws specify the requirements for terminating a tenancy in certain circumstances. Here is a general overview of evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent.

If a tenant remains in possession of the property after the tenancy is terminated, it allows the landlord to file an Unlawful Detainer lawsuit against the renter. The first step then is terminating the tenancy, and this process is begun by serving the tenant with what is known as a “Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit." There are very specific requirements for what is contained in this notice and how it is served. If the tenant fails to pay rent during this period, then the landlord can file the Unlawful Detainer lawsuit.

Unlawful Detainer lawsuits are resolved in summary proceedings. They move much quicker than a regular civil action. Once you file an Unlawful Detainer lawsuit, the tenant has five days to file an answer. The tenant can also file a motion to Quash, Motion to Strike, or request a Demurrer, all of which will delay the eviction process. If the tenant doesn’t file an answer, then the landlord can request a default judgment and Writ of Possession. This will allow the sheriff or marshal to evict the tenant. If the tenant answers the Unlawful Detainer Complaint, then the landlord will have to file a Request to Set Case for Trial. If the tenant doesn’t file a Counter-Request, the clerk of the court will set a trial date no more than 20 days from the date you filed your request. If you prevail in trial, then you will get a Judgment and Writ of Possession allowing the sheriff or marshal to evict the tenant.

The problems a landlord can have with a tenant are endless. It could be a renter who fails to pay rent. A renter who is always late with their rent payment. A renter who is causing damage to a rental unit. A renter who won’t move out and is a holdover tenant. A renter who is causing problems for neighbors. A renter who... You get the point. All of these problems will require the landlord to use the proper legal process to address the issue. These pages are directed primarily to address the most common problem, a tenant who fails to pay rent, but we can help with resolving most landlord tenant issues in San Diego.

Please see the next part of the "Guide" for more information or visit

The information on these pages is to help in understanding the legal process in some aspects of Landlord Tenant law. The information here is not the same as legal advice, which is unique to each set of facts. You must consult with a lawyer to determine the appropriate action in your specific case.

Scott R. Rights, Esq.

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