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I Have Been Sued (Tenant)


Evictions can be complicated. The landlord (plaintiff) and tenant (defendant) do not have to get a lawyer but it is a good idea to at least talk to a lawyer. To learn more about the eviction process read:

You can also attend one of the following workshops/clinics where you can receive legal assistance in responding to an Unlawful Detainer eviction:

Select the first available workshop/clinic to insure that you file your response on time with the court.

Getting Notice

First, the landlord has to give you a notice to move out or give you a chance to fix the problem (like paying the rent). If you do not do what the notice asks before the time in the notice runs out, then the landlord may file an unlawful detainer case (called a Summons and Complaint) with the Superior Court to evict you. You can read more about the different types of notices.

Deciding Whether to File a Response

The landlord who files the Complaint is called the plaintiff and the tenants are called defendants. After you are served with the Summons and Complaint, if you want to defend yourself in the case, you have to file a response to the lawsuit with the court. The response has to be in the proper legal form. It is not enough to call or write a letter to the landlord. It is also not enough to write a letter to the court.

You have five days to file your response if you were personally served. You count the first day as the day after you were served the complaint. If the fifth day falls on a court holiday or weekend, you have until the following day to file. (Example, if you were served on Monday, then the 5th day is the next Monday because day 5 falls on a Saturday). If another person was served on your behalf, a copy of the Summons and Complaint must also be mailed to you. This is call substitute service and you have 15 days to respond from the postmark date.

If you miss the deadline to respond, you may still be able to file a response. If the plaintiff has not yet filed his or her "Request to Enter Default" stating that you have not responded and asking the court to cut off your time to respond, you may still file your response. Act quickly, because you do not know when the plaintiff will ask for the default. If there is more than 1 defendant in the case, each defendant who wants to present a defense needs to respond.

You can also try and settle the case out of court. To read more about this, go to the Settling Out of Court page.

If you Decide to File a Response

There are different ways to respond. Most defendants respond by filing an Answer - Unlawful Detainer (UD-105) . But if you believe the plaintiff’s eviction notice, the Complaint, or service of the Complaint is defective, you may file a motion such as a motion to quash (void) service or a demurrer challenging the notice or the Complaint:

  • A motion to quash service is filed when the defendant states that the plaintiff did not serve the Summons and Complaint properly. If the defendant wins, the plaintiff has to re-serve the Summons and Complaint. If the plaintiff wins, the tenant will have to answer the Complaint promptly.
  • A demurrer is filed when the defendant states that the plaintiff did not have enough in the eviction notice or in the Complaint to justify an eviction. Demurrers may delay the case by a few weeks, and if the defendant wins, the plaintiff may have to start the case all over.

There are no motion or demurrer forms. Talk to a lawyer or find a legal aid office to help you make sure you file whatever response is best in your situation.

Which forms you need to file your Answer

If you decide to file an Answer, you will need the following forms:

You may also find the appropriate forms and get help filling out the forms you need using the tutorial form programs and eFilng options on the Self-Help Centers’ “Create Court Forms” page.

If they want, defendants can share an Answer form. But each defendant must sign the form and pay a separate filing fee. To make sure you fill out the Answer fully:

  • Read the Complaint carefully and make sure that you state in the Answer if there is anything you do not agree with or there are things that are not true.
  • There are many different things you can state in the Answer, directly in response to the plaintiff’s Complaint or to explain why you did what you did. Include everything in your defense that you may want to tell the judge, with details and dates. For example, if you do not agree you owe as much rent as the plaintiff claims, say so and explain why you do not owe that amount. If the property is in really bad condition with rats or other pests, say so and explain if you asked the plaintiff to fix the problem and what the plaintiff did or did not do. If the unit needs a lot of repairs, say so. If you think the plaintiff is retaliating against you for something you did (like complain about things that need fixing), explain why.

If you need help completing the forms, you may wish to:

  • Attend a workshop/clinic (see above)

Serving Your Answer

After you fill out your Answer, you must serve the plaintiff with a copy and then file it with the court before your deadline runs out. The steps are:

  1. Make 2 copies of the forms.
  2. Have someone 18 or older (NOT you or another tenant or defendant) mail one of the copies to the plaintiff or to the plaintiff’s lawyer if they have one (do NOT mail the original).
  3. Have this person (called the server) fill out and sign a Proof of Service - Civil
  4. Keep the original of the Answer and the completed Proof of Service to file at the court.

Filing the Answer and Paying the Filing Fee

You must file the original Answer and Proof of Service with the court. You must submit your document to the court where it was filed or you may choose to submit your documents by e-File

In addition to the Self-Help Centers, if you need access to a computer to eFile, you can find public computers at most public libraries and at the Public Law Library.

There is a fee to file an answer. The fee is based upon the number of defendants filing a response and the amount you are being sued for. If you are being sued for $25,000 or under, check the fee schedule for limited civil actions. If you are being sued for over $25,000, check the fee schedule for unlimited civil actions.

If you cannot afford the filing fees, you may qualify to have the fees waived. You can fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (FW-001). You can read more about fee waivers.

If you need help completing the fee waiver forms, you may wish to use a free tutorial program which automatically selects and completes forms for the user based on a question and answer process for a self-represented litigant. This program is available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. If you are attending one of the workshops/clinics mentioned about, you can also receive help completing the fee waiver forms.

What Happens After I File An Answer?

After you file your answer, a trial will be scheduled within 20 days from the date the plaintiff makes a request for a trial date.

Go to the California Courts Guide For Tenants to learn about:

  • Requesting a trial by jury
  • Preparing for trial
  • What happens at the trial
  • What happens after the trial
  • Filing an Appeal or Motion to Set Aside the Judge’s Order
  • Stay of execution
  • Moving out before the case is over

What if I Have a Disability and Need an Accommodation?

If you have a disability and need help, fill out a Request for Accommodations By Persons With Disabilities (MC-410) and file it with the court as soon as possible, but at least five days before the trial date.

What if I Need an Interpreter?


By law, in California all official court business must be conducted in English. When one of the parties or witnesses in a case does not speak English well, that person will need a court interpreter (who speaks English and the non-English speaker’s first language) so he or she can understand what is going on and talk to the judge.

In some cases (like criminal cases) the interpreter is paid for by the court and may be a court employee. However, in civil cases, with the exception of domestic violence proceedings in Family Law cases, the person needing the interpreter must get and pay for his or her own interpreter or get a friend to help interpret. It is your responsibility to get your own interpreter. You can ask a friend, relative, or someone else to interpret for you when you go to court. Do not ask a child to interpret for you.

Keep in mind that just because someone you know speaks both English and your first language does not mean he or she would be a good interpreter. A court interpreter needs to be familiar with legal terms and concepts in both English and your first language, and most people are not. That is why it is very important you have an interpreter with experience. If you decide to use a noncertified or nonregistered interpreter, such as a friend or relative, have the person read the instructions and duties for interpreting in the information sheet called Foreign Language Interpreter’s Duties-Civil and Small Claims (INT-200) .

To make sure you get an experienced court interpreter, you should consider a professional interpreter who has passed the required examinations and has officially registered and been approved as a court interpreter by the Judicial Council of California. .

There are 2 types of officially-approved court interpreters in California:

  • Certified court interpreters: Only interpreters who pass the Court Interpreter Certification Examination and register with the Judicial Council are referred to as “certified" in these 13 languages:
    American Sign Language, Arabic, Cantonese, Eastern Armenian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Western Armenian.
  • Registered court interpreters: Interpreters of spoken languages for which there is no state certifying examination are called “registered interpreters of non-designated languages.” They must pass an English proficiency examination, and register with the state’s Judicial Council.

The California Courts website has a list of certified and registered interpreters for oral interpretation. Certified and registered interpreters may also translate documents, however, the California Courts does not test or certify an interpreter's written translation skills. The American Translators Association can also interpret documents.


Using a court interpreter can be awkward because you have to go through another person to get your information or talk to the judge. Follow these tips when using an interpreter in a courtroom:

  • Listen carefully to the interpreter.
  • Wait for the interpreter to finish talking before you answer.
  • Speak slowly so the interpreter can hear everything you say.

Do not interrupt, even if someone in court says something bad about you. You will get a chance to speak.


Note: There are also American Sign Language interpreters and real time captioning for parties and witnesses that are deaf or hard-of-hearing (or have another disability). The court will provide a sign language interpreter or court reporter for you or other accommodation you may need. You can read more about this in the For Persons With Disabilities Requesting Accommodations section of this website to learn about the court's policy for accommodating persons with disabilities. Make your request as soon as possible, but at least 5 days prior to the hearing.

Can I Bring Children to Court?

Children may be brought to the court and may stay in "Children’s Chambers" while their caregivers are conducting business with the court. Children’s Chambers is a safe drop-in center for children that lets children be children instead of spending long sessions listening to adult interactions that could be painful or frightening.

You can read more about which courts offer a Children’s Chambers and the guidelines.

How to Get More Information

You can find the location of the court’s Self-Help Centers, Lawyer Referral Services, and general information about landlord-tenant law on the General Information page.

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