Landlords: Give Notice to the Tenant (Step 1 of 7)
In order to start the eviction process, you, as the landlord, must first give the tenant written notice. If the tenant does not do what the notice asks, you can file an unlawful detainer case in court when the notice period ends.
Sometimes figuring out what type of notice is needed can be difficult. Talk to an eviction lawyer to make sure you are using the right notice and that you are filling it out correctly. Eviction notices are not court forms, but many of the notice forms can be purchased in stores that sell legal forms. Make sure the form you use meets the requirements of current California law, because if there are mistakes in the notice, you might lose the case automatically.
Read more about types of Eviction Notices.
You have to serve the notice on the tenant properly. You can do it yourself, or you can ask a friend to do it. You can also hire a process server. The person who serves the notice must be at least 18 years old.
There are 3 ways to serve the notice:
- Personal service: You or someone else gives the notice directly to the tenant in person.
- Substituted service: If the tenant is not home, you can leave the notice with a member of the household, at least 18 years old, where the tenant lives AND then mail a second copy to the tenant at the property.
- Posting and mailing (“nail and mail”) service: If there is no one home to leave the papers with, you can tape or nail the notice to the front door or somewhere where it can be seen easily AND send a copy by mail to the tenant at the property.
Once you give the tenant notice, you must wait until the notice period is up to see if the tenant does what the notice asks within the time allowed. If the tenant does not comply, you can file an unlawful detainer case in court to evict the tenant and request back rent. If the tenant does what the notice requires (like pay the back rent in full), then you cannot file an unlawful detainer case.
If the notice is not correctable, such as a 3-day notice to quit or a 30- or 60-day notice to quit (move out) in a month-to-month tenancy, you can file an unlawful detainer case in court when the notice period ends.
If you file the eviction case in court before the notice runs out, the court will dismiss the case.
To count the days in the notice period:
- The first day is the day after the notice is served.
- Then count every day on the calendar, including weekends and holidays.
- If the last day of the notice period falls on a holiday or weekend, then the notice period ends the next work day.
If you do not serve the notice in person and have to mail a second copy, you have to make sure that you do not start counting until the day after you mail the notice.
A notice is almost always needed before filing an unlawful detainer case. But there are a few exceptions:
- Fixed term leases: If the tenant has a lease for a fixed period of time, and the lease is up and the landlord does not extend it, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case without giving notice first. But the landlord cannot take any rent after the lease runs out or he or she will be creating a month-to-month tenancy, which requires notice to terminate.*
- The landlord accepts the tenant’s notice to end the lease: If the tenant gives the landlord notice that he or she will be moving out, but he or she does not, then the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case right away.
- The tenant works for the landlord and lives on the property as part of the job: The landlord can file an unlawful detainer case without notice as soon as the tenant does not work for the landlord anymore.
* In a rent controlled city, the landlord may not be able to evict a tenant when the lease is up unless the landlord has a good reason (“just cause”), to file an eviction case. The landlord will probably need a notice in that case.
In some cases, a landlord can give a tenant more than 1 notice at the same time. For example, if the tenant is always late with the rent, a landlord can serve a “3-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit” and a “30-Day Notice to Quit” at the same time. If the tenant does not pay the rent within 3 days of receiving the 3-day notice, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case after the 3-day period ends. Even if the tenant pays the rent within the 3-day period, he or she must still move out in 30 days. If the tenant does not move out after the 30 days, then the landlord has to file an unlawful detainer case.
It is really important for you to check if the property is under rent control. If it is, you may not be able to evict the tenant, even with notice, for just any reason. Click to find out if your city has rent control laws.
And, if the property is under foreclosure, different rules and notice requirements may apply. Read about the rights of tenants in a foreclosure.