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Keep your rental: your rights as a tenant

Being served an eviction notice is a terrifying experience. In an instant you realize that you are losing your home, you could miss work due to suddenly being forced to move, you may not be able to afford moving costs and you simply might not have anywhere to go.

California law affords you several rights as a tenant, though, including stipulations on when you can and cannot be evicted and the amount of notice you must be given. 

What are grounds for eviction?

With very few exceptions, your landlord needs a good reason to evict you from your home. In the eyes of the law, there are only a few things serious enough to constitute grounds for an eviction. If you're being evicted and your reason isn't on this list, your landlord may be the one at fault.

  • Not paying rent - You must pay your rent in full on the day it's due or your landlord will generally have legal grounds to evict.
  • Violating lease - It's important to know the terms of your lease when you move in. If you violate it (having a pet on the premises when they aren't allowed, for example) and don't fix the problem, you might be evicted.
  • Causing severe damage - Landlords don't want their assets damaged. If you cause enough damage to affect the value of the property, you may be evicted.
  • Causing a severe nuisance - Disrupting your neighbors or other tenants with noise, odor or another nuisance could get you evicted.
  • Breaking the law - Your landlord is generally within their rights to evict if you use your home to do something illegal.
  • Renting month-to-month - This is the exception to your landlord needing a valid reason to evict. If you are currently renting month-to-month, your landlord may evict you without cause. They must also provide ample notice, however.

How much time do you have?

Just because your landlord may have a good reason for an eviction notice, that doesn't mean they can force you out immediately. In most situations, you must be given notice before having to leave the premises. Your eviction notice must also be written very specifically for it to be valid.

Three days' notice is only a rule of thumb. As mentioned before, if you are renting month-to-month, then your landlord may evict you without reason. In that situation they must give you a 30-day notice if you've been renting for less than a year, and a 60-day notice if you've been renting for over a year.

You're not completely out of luck

There are often ways you can avoid eviction and continue renting your home:

  • Fix lease violation or paid rent - If you fixed your lease violation or paid your rent in full within three days after being served your eviction notice, your landlord generally cannot proceed with your eviction.
  • Forced out -In California, your landlord can evict you only by filing a lawsuit. It is against the law for your landlord to try to force you out by changing locks, turning off your water, etc.
  • Improper maintenance - If your landlord fails to maintain proper upkeep of your rental, you are legally allowed to withhold rent until the repairs are made. They generally may not try to evict you for not paying rent in this time.
  • Improper eviction - Eviction notices can be complicated; if your landlord does not carefully follow the many regulations that come with them, their eviction may be invalid. This is when having a lawyer on your side to check their documents is a must.
  • Discrimination - You may never be evicted based on your race, religion, gender, nation of origin, disabilities, or family status. Additionally, in California you cannot be discriminated against based on your gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, medical condition or age.

If you are given an eviction notice, try not to panic. You have rights as a tenant in California, so take a breath and remember that this might not be the end of your living situation.

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