Tenants can stop an eviction in California by using several defenses: improper or defective eviction notice, landlord retaliation, discrimination, unlawful harassment by landlord, landlord breach of lease, violation of rent control eviction rules, COVID-19 protections, and improper service of eviction lawsuit papers. Consulting with a legal professional can also provide additional strategies to challenge the eviction in court.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about how to avoid an eviction and what your rights as a tenant are in California.


How to Stall the Eviction Process in California

California landlords can evict tenants if they fail to pay rent or violate provisions of the lease agreement. A bankruptcy filing can significantly impact the eviction process, often causing major delays. If you find yourself in a position where you are facing eviction, know that there are defenses available to challenge it in court. Landlords must provide adequate notice to their tenants informing them that they must pay any back rent, fix a lease violation, or move out. If the tenant fails to complete what the landlord request in the notice, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.


What Is a Pre-Judgement Claim of Right to Possession?

When a landlord files an eviction, they have the option to serve a “pre-judgment claim of right to possession” to all unknown occupants. This informs all unnamed occupants that an eviction action has been filed and their right to be heard in court. If the landlord includes a pre-judgment claim of possession when they serve the eviction notice and the unnamed occupants fail to complete and file the pre-judgment claim form with the court, then the unnamed occupants lose their rights in the property and their right to assert any tenancy rights.

However, if the landlord neglects to use a pre-judgment claim, then a person residing on the premises who isn’t named in the lawsuit can delay the eviction for at least two weeks by filing a “third party claim of right to possession” at the last minute. The court will set a hearing to decide if the claimant should have been named in the eviction action. If the court decides the claimant is legitimate and should be named as an additional defendant, then the landlord can be ordered to start the eviction process again. Filing a pre-judgment claim can delay the eviction process by up to 5 days.


Can an Automatic Stay Stop an Eviction?

Filing for bankruptcy will initiate an “automatic stay” that prevents your landlord from starting or continuing any eviction process that was or could have been commenced before you filed for bankruptcy. Additionally, landlords can’t try to collect the money you owe for rent or bill you for past due rent if you file a bankruptcy petition.

However, if the landlord gets a judgment of possession before you file for bankruptcy, then it won’t stop the eviction. If your eviction case is coming to an end but you want to remain in the property, then you must deposit the full rent that’s due within 30 days with the bankruptcy court the same day your case is filed. Understanding the legal implications surrounding a bankruptcy case, including the automatic stay and protections for landlords, is crucial.

You must also submit a certification that says you can cure the entire arrears and that the law would otherwise allow you to do so. If any of these requirements aren’t met, then the automatic stay won’t protect you from being evicted.


Defenses Against Eviction

What Defenses Can Tenants Use in Eviction Cases?

Tenants facing eviction have several defenses available. One common defense is the landlord’s failure to provide adequate notice. California law requires landlords to give tenants proper notice before initiating an eviction.

Tenants can also declare bankruptcy under chapter 7 or chapter 13 as a defense against eviction, which involves meeting eligibility requirements and undergoing credit counseling.

Another defense is retaliation; if the landlord is evicting you as retaliation for reporting housing code violations, you can challenge the eviction. Additionally, if the landlord hasn’t maintained the property in habitable condition, you may use this as a defense.


The Role of Notice in Eviction Proceedings

What Are the Requirements for Eviction Notices?

Landlords must follow strict notice requirements before filing an eviction lawsuit. The notice must be in writing and specify the reason for eviction, such as unpaid rent or lease violations. It must also give the tenant a specific period to address the issue or vacate the property. For non-payment of rent, landlords must provide a 3-day notice to pay or quit. For lease violations, a 3-day notice to perform covenant or quit is required.


Understanding the Eviction Process Timeline

How Long Does the Eviction Process Take in California?

The eviction process can vary in length depending on several factors. Once a landlord files an unlawful detainer lawsuit, the tenant has 5 days to respond. If the tenant contests the eviction, the case will go to trial, which can add several weeks or months to the process. If the tenant does not respond, the landlord can obtain a default judgment, leading to a quicker resolution. Overall, the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.


Legal Assistance for Tenants Facing Eviction

Why Should Tenants Seek Legal Assistance?

Facing eviction can be daunting, and legal assistance can make a significant difference. Understanding the bankruptcy process is crucial for tenants facing eviction, as it can provide a means to manage debts and potentially halt the eviction. Attorneys can help tenants understand their rights and defenses, negotiate with landlords, and represent them in court. Legal aid organizations often provide free or low-cost services to tenants in need. Having a knowledgeable attorney can improve the chances of a favorable outcome.


Impact of COVID-19 on Evictions

How Has COVID-19 Affected Eviction Laws in California?

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to temporary changes in eviction laws to protect tenants. State and local governments implemented eviction moratoriums to prevent mass displacement during the crisis. These moratoriums temporarily halted evictions for non-payment of rent due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic. Tenants should check current local and state regulations, as these protections may still be in place or have specific requirements for qualification.


Resources for Tenants Facing Eviction

Where Can Tenants Find Help for Eviction Issues?

Tenants can access various resources for assistance with eviction issues. Legal aid organizations, such as Legal Services of Northern California and the California Rural Legal Assistance, provide support and representation. Additionally, tenants can seek help from housing counseling agencies, local tenant unions, and online resources like the California Courts Self-Help Center. These organizations offer guidance on legal rights, paperwork, and court proceedings.


Protecting Tenant Rights

How Can Tenants Protect Their Rights During Eviction?

Tenants can take several steps to protect their rights during eviction. First, they should keep detailed records of all communications and notices from the landlord. Second, they should respond promptly to eviction notices and court documents. Third, they should seek legal advice to understand their defenses and options. By being proactive and informed, tenants can better protect their rights and potentially avoid eviction.


Consult with Our Bankruptcy Team Today If You’re Facing Eviction

The compassionate and dedicated lawyers at Kostopoulos Bankruptcy Law are here to assist if you are currently struggling with burdensome debt and facing eviction. We make it our goal to provide top-notch legal representation and save our clients’ from their debt nightmare. Our attorneys have been selected among America’s Top 50 Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and we are prepared to vigorously fight for your rights under the law.


To schedule a free consultation with a Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Specialist, please call (877) 969-7482 or contact us online.