You may have heard the term unlawful detainer, but what is it? Unlawful detainer is just another term for eviction. If you are going through the eviction process, then you will hear it referred to as unlawful detainer by your attorney and the other party’s attorney.
What Is Unlawful Detainer?
Unlawful detainer is the process of eviction. The landlord will file an unlawful detainer with the courts in order to legally evict their tenants. An unlawful detainer usually moves very quickly in order to minimize the damage to the landlord.
A landlord may file an unlawful detainer if:
- The tenant breaks the lease agreement
- The tenant fails to pay rent
- The tenant is conducting illegal activity on the property
- The landlord cancels the lease
- The tenant refuses to vacate the property once the lease ends
It is called an unlawful detainer because the landlord is alleging that the tenant is unlawfully residing in the landlord’s property.
Unlawful Detainer Process
Before the landlord can start the unlawful detainer process, they must give their tenant a chance to fix the issue. Each state has a different notice requirement. In California, the landlord must give the tenant three (working) days’ notice where they must fix the issue before the deadline, or the landlord will start the unlawful detainer process.
The process of an unlawful detainer starts with the landlord lodging a complaint with the local court. To do so, they must pay a filing fee and the cost of serving the tenant. In some states, the tenant must file a written answer by a deadline. If they do not do this, they will automatically lose their case, and the unlawful detainer case will not go to trial. Next, the issue will be seen in court, but in some jurisdictions, the tenant can request a jury trial.
The court will set a date for the unlawful detainer hearing. At the hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence. If the tenant does not attend the hearing, the landlord will automatically win the unlawful detainer and can proceed with evicting the tenant. The landlord will also present evidence of their financial damages such as loss of rent, property damage, etc.