On behalf of Thaler Law on Thursday, August 1, 2019.

A tenant that doesn’t pay rent or ignores terms of the lease can be very frustrating for a landlord. Not only might it mean a significant blow to their income, but it can even affect the overall health of the property.

There is a way to evict a commercial tenant, but it requires landlords to follow a clearly defined legal process, with specific dos and don’ts.

The California eviction process

If a landlord wants to evict a commercial tenant, they must follow a strict process.

First, a landlord has to issue the tenant a three-day notice explaining the problem – a lease violation for example, or overdue rent – as well as what they need to do to resolve the issue. If in that three days the tenant fixes the problem, then that’s likely the end of it.

If, however, the tenant does not address the issue, then a landlord can start the eviction process.

To do so, a landlord needs to file an unlawful detainer action and serve it to the tenant. The tenant then has five days to contest the eviction. If they do not, the courts will involve a sheriff’s office to help with the physical eviction. If the tenant does contest it, there may end up being a trial within a few weeks, which could determine the outcome.

If the eviction stands, the landlord will generally have to provide a five-day notice to vacate, then allow 15 days for the tenant to get any of their things from the space.

What a landlord can’t do

California law also makes it clear the landlord can not do certain things when trying to evict a tenant. They may not:

  • Prevent the tenant from accessing the site, including by changing locks or the use of a bootlock
  • Remove outside doors and windows
  • Cut off utilities, such as water or electricity
  • Remove any of the tenant’s personal property

In addition, a landlord does not handle the physical process of evicting someone. Only a sheriff’s office with a judgment for possession can do so.

A landlord that violates these laws, even unintentionally, may end up being held liable and potentially ordered to pay damages to the tenant. It’s why many hire an attorney to help ensure they are following the law and moving things along as quickly as possible. The faster a landlord can get through the eviction process, the faster they can fill that space and restore their income.