This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information.
This page was last updated on Sep 20th, 2023. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
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Problem with your Landlord?
Are you having problems with your landlord?
Behind on Rent?
Find local programs that can help you with housing costs, or work out a plan with your landlord.
Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?
Have you received a warning notice from your landlord, like a ‘Notice to Quit’ or a ‘Notice to Leave’? Find what options you have.
Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?
Has your landlord filed an eviction lawsuit in court? Have you received a Summons and Complaint? Learn what rights and options you have.
Emergency Protections during COVID
Do renters have protections against eviction during the Covid-19 emergency?
Contact a legal help organization to help defend yourself.
It is illegal in California for your landlord to evict you without first going to court and getting an eviction order. To remove you from your home, a landlord must take you to court by filing an eviction lawsuit, win the case, and getting an eviction order from the court.
Legal aid groups might be able to provide you with full representation, or other legal organizations can give you information or brief advice.
You may be able to defend yourself using California's eviction protections. Find legal help to protect your rights.
You may be able to break your lease if you can come to an agreement with your landlord.
You can talk to your landlord to see if they will agree to let you leave early. If they agree, be sure to get the agreement in writing.
Also, you can review your lease. It may have a part that lets you end the lease early in times of financial difficulty. If your lease includes this, you might be able to break the lease (in some cases penalty-free).
Tell your landlord about any repairs needed, particularly if they affect your health and safety.
You should call your landlord to make the repairs as soon as possible.
Emergency repairs could be for problems with:
Running water or hot water
Heat or air conditioning
Stove, refrigerator, or oven
Missing doors, locks, or windows
If your landlord doesn't make the repairs promptly, send them a written letter or email about the need for emergency repairs (and keep a copy of this communication). If you request repairs, you must be willing to have the landlord make them.
If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.
Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.
Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.
Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships. You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules. You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP. You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance. Check with your local Rental Assistance program to see if you are eligible.
Most Rental Assistance programs let landlords apply. Either a renter or a landlord can start the application.
The landlord will have to fill in as much information they have about the amount of money needed, and the eligibility for the program. The tenant may have to fill in the rest of the information. Check with your local Rental Assistance program about the steps to follow to apply for rent relief.
Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.
Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.
A verbal conversation doesn't count as an "eviction notice". To be legal, the notice must be written down and given to you in the correct way.
Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself. Find local legal help in California here.
In California, you have a minimum of 3 days between your landlord giving you a notice and them filing a lawsuit against you in court to evict you. The notice should tell you how many days the landlord is giving you. If they are giving you less than 3 days, then you may be able to challenge it as illegal. Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't giving you the required time to make your payment. Find local legal help in California here.
No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the eviction notice. You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.
After the date on the eviction notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself. Find local legal help in California here.
You still have time to reach out for rental assistance and stop the eviction from moving forward.
Be sure to let the local financial help group know that you have received an eviction notice and what its deadline is. They may be able to help you pay the rent you owe, work with your landlord to reduce the amount, or put you on a payment plan.
You do not have to leave your home yet. Landlords can not legally physically remove you, touch your personal property, change the locks, or cut off your utilities.
In California, your landlord must give you an official notice that they may bring you to court to evict you for not paying your rent (or other reasons). The notice should give you time to either pay your rent or prepare defenses against eviction.
This official notice must follow some rules to be valid. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and stop an eviction.
These are the California requirements for an eviction notice:
Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction. Find local legal help in California here.
You can come to an agreement, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed. You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.
Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.
Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.
You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord and making sure this agreement is being followed. Find local legal help in California here.
In California, you are required to respond to the eviction lawsuit, if you want to avoid the eviction. You will need to submit a proper legal response, not just call the courts or send them a letter. There is a form response available.
If you were served in person, you will have 5 days (not including weekends or holidays) after you receive the Summons and Complaint to get a written response back to the court.
If the Summons and Complaint were handed to a member in your household and/or you received in the mail, you have 15 days, starting from the postmark date on the envelope (the first 10 days include weekends and holidays, and the last 5 days do not) to submit your written response. If you do not submit this response by this time frame, you may lose your case and the judge may give the landlord permission to remove you from your home.
Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit. Find local legal help in California here.
You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit. In California, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:
You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction. Find local legal help in California here.
Yes, California renters still need to pay rent during the Covid emergency. You may have had protections against eviction for rent owed through September 30, 2021.
Many local California cities and counties give additional protections (link) about how long a renter will have to pay back the rent owed, but not all do. Check here to see if your local government has set a special timeline for paying back rent, or if they have rules to protect you from late fees. If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
The protections mean that after California protections expired in the Spring of 2022:
Please check if your local California city or county gives you additional protections from eviction. Over 150 local California governments have issued eviction freezes or other protections.
Eviction cases are being heard in California courts since most Covid protections have expired.
Check with the California courts for more updates.
California renters' utilities may be shut off due to a lack of payment since the emergency period expired. (https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/covid19protections/)
Read more about past protections from utility shutoff here. These protections have expired.
If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
California has some protections for tenants who were unable to pay their rent between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022, because of COVID-related financial distress. Tenants may be protected from eviction if they have applied for California government rental assistance and they are waiting for a decision. If a landlord does try to sue the tenant while they are waiting for the decision, the tenant can tell the court about their application. This is a valid defense to the eviction lawsuit.
In addition, tenants who couldn't pay rent due to COVID-19 hardships through September 30, 2021 may also be protected from eviction. The missed rent must have occurred between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. The renters must have paid at least 25% of their rent to avoid eviction. They also should have filled in this Declaration form to explain their financial distress and given it to their landlord. Read more about California's protections here.
Many local California cities and counties have implemented such eviction freezes and additional protections for renters. Check here to see if any apply to you.
Some California renters still have protections from eviction. If you have applied for government rental assistance and are waiting for a decision, then your landlord should not bring an eviction lawsuit against you. If they do sue for eviction, you can tell the court that you are waiting on a rental assistance decision.
You may also be protected from eviction for rent or other housing costs that were owed between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. You may be able to defend yourself against an eviction for rent owed from that period. Some local city or county California governments may give you additional protections.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
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