Unlawful Detainer (eviction) – Introduction

The legal action for a landlord to recover their property from a tenant is called unlawful detainer.  In layman’s terms it is an eviction.  This is the introductory post for a three part series outlining the process.

Unlawful detainer is a special expedited legal process.  Unlike most lawsuits, a contested unlawful detainer matter can be finished  in a matter of weeks without trial rather than months.  Most of these actions are completed in four to six weeks.

The goal of this action is what is called the writ of restitution and a judgment for money damages.  The writ is an order to the county sheriff to remove the tenants from the property and restore possession to the landlord.  The money judgment is for past due rent, late fees, attorney’s fees, and court costs.

There are three distinct stages of an unlawful detainer action in pursuit of these goals.  Each post of this series will cover one of these stages.  The first is the notice.  Second, is starting the law suit and the tenant’s answer.  Third is the show cause hearing and obtaining the writ of restitution.

It is important for both landlords and tenants to understand the unlawful detainer process so they may best protect their own interests.  Each stage provides unique opportunities to advance or harm their interests.  Since I’ve represented both landlords and tenants in the past I’ll  be identifying some of these opportunities in each stage for both sides.