Common Eviction Mistakes Rental Landlords Must Avoid in Palm Desert

Common Eviction Mistakes Rental Landlords Must Avoid In Palm Desert - Article Banner

Evictions are complicated in California, and they seem to grow even more complicated with every new law that’s passed or tenant protection that’s adopted. We always recommend that landlords and property owners work with an experienced landlord and tenant attorney or talk to a Palm Desert property manager before initiating an eviction. It protects you and ensures you get your property back as quickly as possible. 

If you try to do it all alone, you’re more likely to make a mistake. In California, those mistakes are usually pretty expensive. 

Here are some of the most common eviction mistakes we see. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to avoid them. 

Is Your Lease Agreement California-Compliant?

If you let your tenant move in without a signed lease agreement, it may take you some extra time to evict that tenant. The judge will want to see a lease when you show up in court, trying to get possession of your property back. If you don’t have one, things can get complicated. 

Make sure you have your tenants sign a lease agreement that includes your rent collection policy. It should include all the consequences of late or unpaid rent – including eviction. Don’t rely on a verbal agreement. Use a lease template that’s both legally enforceable and legally compliant in California. We see a lot of leases that were taken from the internet, without any attention to whether they apply to California. 

Don’t try to evict without a strong and enforceable lease agreement. 

Just Cause Eviction vs. No Cause Eviction

The Tenant Protection Act of 2020 is best known for being a statewide rent control law. 

It does set up rent restrictions, but the law does more than that. The new law also includes provisions for just cause eviction. 

There’s no longer an ability to conduct a no-cause eviction, at least not without paying a large relocation fee. Instead, you can only evict for reasons such as these:

  • Nonpayment of rent.
  • Lease violations.
  • Criminal activity.

When your property needs to be rehabilitated, you can evict a tenant, but you have to offer the property back to that tenant when it’s done being renovated. 

It’s a mistake to evict a tenant without just cause. 

Here are some other details that are easy to miss, which can lead to expensive mistakes:

  • Eviction for demolition or “substantial rehabilitation” is only permitted if a landlord needs to comply with habitability and safety laws.
  • Unlawful detainers for nonpayment of rent, regardless of when they’re due, are not permitted for time periods prior to October 5, 2020. 
  • You cannot file an unlawful detainer action on unpaid rent from September 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 against any resident who claims financial injury due to the COVID-19 pandemic until February 1, 2021. 

You’ll be exempt from just cause evictions if you meet the necessary criteria. When you rent out a single-family home as an independent landlord and not a corporation, you’re exempt. If you’re renting out a duplex and living in one of the units, you’re exempt. If your multi-family property is less than 15 years old, you may be exempt.

Serving Proper Notice to Palm Desert Tenants

You cannot evict a tenant before providing notice that they’re behind in rent or in violation of their lease agreement. If you try to evict without this notice, your mistake will result in having to start the entire process over.

Most evictions are for nonpayment of rent. So, before you go to court for the eviction filing, you need to serve a Three Day Notice to your tenants. This will tell them that they have three days to pay the amount of rent that’s due or move out of the property. Don’t skip this step. You won’t go very far in your eviction if you cannot prove this notice was lawfully served to your tenants. 

Trying to Lock Out your Tenants 

One of the worst mistakes you can make while evicting your tenants is to do something illegal, such as changing the locks on your own. 

It’s infuriating when rent isn’t paid and your tenants are living for free on your property. Sometimes, it seems like the court process doesn’t move fast enough. But, you cannot change the locks on them. You can shut off the water or other utilities. You cannot show up to harass them or provoke fights. 

Follow the legal process. It’s the only way to remove them from your property without getting in legal trouble yourself. 

Mistakes in Court for Palm Desert Landlords

After the notice period has come and gone and you’ve effectively filed for eviction in court, you’ll finally get your hearing. Make sure you’re prepared. It’s a mistake to just show up and expect the court to trust your word. You need to bring copies of:

  • Your lease agreement
  • Your Three Day Notice
  • Any other correspondence regarding overdue rent
  • Your accounting ledger that shows unpaid rent accounts
  • A copy of your Summons and Complaint

Be ready to demonstrate that you have exhausted every process for getting your tenants to come into compliance and pay the rental amount. 

Conducting a Legally Compliant Eviction

So, what are you supposed to do to ensure you are avoiding these mistakes? 

  • File a Three Day Notice. This gives your tenant three days to pay the rent or move out of the property. In our experience, most tenants will catch up with the payment before the end of the three days. If not, you’ll have to move onto the next step. 
  • File for an Unlawful Detainer. After the three business days come and go without payment or a notification that the tenants have moved out, you’ll need to go to the court and file for an eviction, which is legally referred to as an unlawful detainer.

File Paperwork

At the courthouse, you’ll file the required paperwork and pay a fee. A court date will be set and your tenants will be informed. Sometimes, tenants will come up with the rent and the eviction will be called off. Or, they’ll move out of the property and you can get it back. 

Don’t forget to work with an attorney or a Palm Desert property manager. We can help you if you find yourself in a situation where eviction is the only way out. Contact us at Xepco Properties.