Settling Out of Court
Reasons to Settle
You do not have to let the court decide the case just because someone filed an Unlawful Detainer action. You have the right to settle the case out of court. Even if you think you have a strong case or defense, there are a lot of good reasons to settle out of court:
- Save Money:
- If you settle early, you will not have to pay any more court or lawyer fees.
- Save Time:
- If you settle, your dispute will be over much faster than a trial.
- Do Not Take off from Work:
- If you settle early, you will not have to take time off from work to go to trial.
- Do Not Pay the Other Side’s Costs and Fees:
- If you settle, you cannot lose the case and the judge cannot order you to pay the other side’s court costs or lawyer fees.
- Keep Renting:
- It may be very hard to rent again if you have an Unlawful Detainer judgment against you. Many landlords check court records or Unlawful Detainer Registries to find out if a tenant had an Unlawful Detainer judgment against them.
- Protect Your Credit Rating:
- A judgment against you may ruin your credit rating.
Using a Mediator to Settle
The court provides mediators at no cost to the parties. They may help the parties reach a settlement before the trial date. They are also sometimes available at the court on the day of your trial. You can read more about the mediation process .
Sometimes the defendant agrees to leave, but needs time to find a new place. If this happens, you can enter a "conditional settlement." This is also called a Stipulation for Entry of Judgment (UD-115) . You may need to consult an attorney to draft this type of document.
- Agree on a Date for the Defendant to Leave:
- This can be a week or a few months.
- Agree to the Terms:
- You must agree on how much money the defendant must pay to stay the extra time and who is paying the court costs. You also have to agree on when it is due.
- Agree on the Conditions:
- You must agree that the landlord will dismiss the case if the defendant pays the landlord and leaves on the due date. But, if the defendant pays late or does not leave on time, the landlord can get a judgment. The landlord just has to file the stipulation with a sworn declaration. The declaration must prove that the defendant broke the agreement.
- Dismissal Date:
- If the defendant has more than 45 days to do what the agreement asks, the Notice of Settlement should state what date the plaintiff will dismiss the action.
What to Do If You Settle the Case
TELL THE COURT RIGHT AWAY:
If you decide to settle your case, then you must notify the court right away. You must complete a Notice of Settlement (CM-200) and file the form with the court to make your notification. If you are scheduled for a trial, you must still attend if you did not file the Notice of Settlement at least 10 days before the trial. You may tell the court about your settlement at that time.
DISMISS THE ACTION:
If your agreement included conditions, then you must include the date that the conditions will be completed on the Notice of Settlement. You must file a dismissal of the entire action within 45 days from the date of completion.
If your agreement did not include conditions, you must include the date of the settlement on the Notice of Settlement. You must file a dismissal of the entire action with 45 days from the date of settlement.
The court will schedule a review hearing 45 days from the date indicated on Notice of Settlement if you do not file a dismissal of the entire action. The court will dismiss the action if you do not appear and give the court a good reason not to.
If the defendant has not filed a response, there is a "first paper" filing fee to file a Stipulation or Notice of Settlement. It is based on the number of defendants signing the stipulation:
If the defendants cannot afford the filing fees, they may qualify to have the fees waived. Read more about fee waivers.
How to Get More Information
Settling an Unlawful Detainer action may be complicated. The court’s Self-Help Center staff can provide you with general information; however, you may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in Unlawful Detainers. If you are the plaintiff, the cost of an attorney may be cheaper than the additional rent and damages you lose if your case is delayed or dismissed for a legal defect. If you are the defendant, an attorney can make sure that the terms of the settlement are fair and appropriate.
You can find the location of the Self-Help Centers, Lawyer Referral Services, and online resources about landlord-tenant law on the General Information page.