Landlord / Tenant
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What Is an Unlawful Detainer Action?
Landlords and tenants can have disagreements. If they cannot work it out, they may end up in court. This section does not talk about everything a landlord and tenant may disagree about. It mainly talks about who has the right to live at the property.
Eviction cases are called "Unlawful Detainer" cases. Unlawful Detainer cases are complicated. Talk to a lawyer to make sure all your rights are protected and that everyone does what they are supposed to do. Look at the list of other places to get help below. If you are a defendant in an unlawful Detainer case, you may refer to the “I have been sued (Tenant)” section of this webpage for more information.
EVICT SOMEONE FROM THEIR HOME OR WORKPLACE:
An Unlawful Detainer action is a special court proceeding. It is a legal way to evict someone from the place where they live or work. This usually happens when a tenant stays after the lease is expired, the lease is canceled, or the tenant has not paid their rent.
DISAGREEMENT HAS TO BE ABOUT THE TENANT MOVING OUT:
An Unlawful Detainer decides if the landlord can take the property back from the tenant. The landlord is the plaintiff. The tenant is the defendant.
ONLY THE SHERIFF CAN PHYSICALLY EVICT SOMEONE:
If the landlord wins the case, they will get a "judgment" and the tenant has to move out. The Sheriff can enforce this judgment. This means the Sheriff can physically make the tenant leave.
A LANDLORD CANNOT EVICT SOMEONE THEMSELF:
You cannot evict someone yourself without going through the proper steps. It is against the law. Only the Sheriff can evict someone. That is why you may need an Unlawful Detainer.
Even if a tenant is months behind on the rent, the landlord cannot:
- Make the tenant move out,
- Get rid of the tenant’s possessions,
- Lock the tenant out,
- Cut off the water or electricity, or
- Remove outside windows or doors.
To legally evict the tenant through the process of an Unlawful Detainer, the landlord has to:
- Serve the tenant with the appropriate written notice (there are several types of notice, and the one you serve on your tenant must be appropriate to your specific case circumstances),
- Wait for the time period in the notice to end, and
- File an Unlawful Detainer action if the tenant does not do what the notice asks.
An Unlawful Detainer case is fast. Usually, the defendant has 5 days to file a response. You can have a trial 20 days after that. In general, the defendant cannot file a cross complaint (counter-sue).
Assistance by Phone, in Person or Online
EDUCATIONAL VIDEOS ON UNLAWFUL DETAINER (EVICTION) CASES:
Resolving Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) Cases [4-Parts Video]
SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY CIVIL DIVISION COURT STAFF:
The Civil Division court staff can assist you in person with forms, filing documents, and procedural matters from Monday-Friday, 8:00am - 4:00pm at three court locations (see below). Recorded general information is available at the phone numbers listed below. However, due to fiscal constraints, no call agents are available by phone.
SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY SELF-HELP CENTERS:
Self-Help Center staff is available from Monday-Thursday 8:00am to 4:00pm and Friday 8:00am - 3:00pm to provide procedural guidance and information regarding forms for Unlawful Detainer matters. For locations of Self-Help Centers, see below.
SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY WEBSITE:
The court provides a variety of online services. You may view your case, access and fill out forms, check the court’s calendar, and eFile your documents.
DROP BOX INFORMATION:
Drop boxes or door slots are located at each of the courthouses below, with 24/7 access. Properly completed documents along with the fees for filing (if any) placed in these drop boxes before 4:00pm on an open court day will be considered received on the same date.
Civil Courthouse and venue
|Limited Civil (actions $25,000 and under)||For Property Located In:|
|Central Justice Center
700 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Self-Help Center - 1st Floor
Orange County - all cities
|Unlimited Civil (actions over $25,000)||
For Property Located In:
|Central Justice Center
700 Civic Center Dr.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Civil Division - 1st Floor
|Orange County - all cities|
|Central Justice Center||Orange County-all cities|
Unlawful Detainer Forms and Law
Civil forms are available online, at a Self-Help Center, or by using a forms tutorial program to guide you through the process.
- Civil Code
- Code of Civil Procedure
- California Rules of Court for Civil (3.1-3.2120)
- Superior Court of Orange County Local Rules of Court (Division 3)
Copy and Record Search Requests
Find information on how to:
There are a variety of resources which provide you with information about Unlawful Detainers.
These are just a few:
- Resolving Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) Cases [4-Parts Video]
- California Department of Consumer Affairs
- California Courts Self-Help Center
- Defending an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit-Tenant (L-1196)
- Defending an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit Workshop
- Filing an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit-Landlord
- Fair Housing Council of Orange County
- Legal Aid Society of Orange County's Unlawful Detainer (Eviction) Clinic [Video]
For legal advice, you may contact the following lawyer referral services: