The short answer to this question is, “no, you cannot evict a tenant without a court order.” What this means is that, although you can take certain actions that will legally obligate the tenant to move out under certain circumstances, you cannot simply change the locks on his door or throw his possessions out onto the street. You will need a court order, and the actual ejection itself must be performed by a public official.  

Termination with Cause: The Three Notices

When termination of the lease is for cause (as opposed to expiration of the lease), the eviction process begins when you establish grounds for it and serve the tenant with one of the following types of notices, depending on the grounds for eviction:

The Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent

If the tenant is late on rent, you can send him a Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent, which is an ultimatum telling him to either pay rent in three days or move out.

The Three-Day Notice to Cure

The Three-Day Notice to Cure is the notice that you send the tenant if he violated the lease in a non-serious manner (if he brought a pet into the unit, for example). This is the same type of ultimatum as the Three-Day Notice to Pay Rent – either cure the lease violation or move out.

The Three-Day Unconditional Quit Notice

This notice is justified when the tenant commits a serious lease violation (if he sublets the unit to someone else, for example). This type of notice tells the tenant to move out in three days, period, with no opportunity to cure the lease violation.

Termination for Expiration of the Lease

A lease naturally expires after a certain period of time. At that time, the tenant must move out regardless of whether he violated the terms of the lease. California classifies lease periods as follows:

Month-to-Month Tenancies

If the tenant is leasing the unit one month at a time, you must wait until the current leased month ends and then notify him of the termination of the arrangement:

  • 30 days in advance if he has lived in the unit for less than a year; or

  • 60 days in advance if he has lived in the unit for a year or more.

Fixed Term Leases

If the lease sets a fixed term (one year, for example), the tenant must leave when the term expires and you don’t need to notify him in advance unless the lease requires you to do so.

Filing a Lawsuit

Once the notice period has expired without its conditions (if any) having been met or the lease term naturally expires, you can file an unlawful detainer lawsuit or an eviction lawsuit to get a court-issued eviction order against the tenant.

Calling the Sheriff

If the tenant still refuses to move out, you can obtain a Writ of Possession from the court clerk on the strength of the eviction order. Once it is taken to the sheriff’s office, the sheriff will issue the tenant a final five-day notice to vacate. If the tenant refuses to comply, the sheriff will force him out of the unit.

Seek Professional Advice Today

If you are in a dispute with a tenant who you fear you may have to evict or if you anticipate such a dispute arising, call CKB Vienna today or contact us online to schedule a consultation on the matter. We serve clients in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County.