During the Case

An eviction court case starts when the landlord files paperword asking the court to evict the tenant. The landlord then serves the tenant with the paperwork letting the tenant know he or she has started an eviction case in court. The tenant then has 5 days, including weekend days (but not holidays), to respond.

To start an eviction case, follow the steps below.

The landlord needs to fill out and file the following forms:

  • Complaint-Unlawful Detainer (Form UD-100)
    See the instructions for this form.
  • Summons-Unlawful Detainer (Form SUM-130)
  • Civil Case Cover Sheet (Form CM-010)

If you do not know the names of all of the adults living in the rental unit, you should also fill out and file a:

  • Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession (Form CP10.5)

Once your forms are filled out, you need to file them with the court. For information on how and where to file your forms, click the next topic in this list.

NOTE: You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you're not sure which forms to use, talk to a lawyer. Find low-cost legal aid. Find local court forms you may need, by going to your county's court website.

All of the Unlawful Detainer "Complaint" and "Summons" forms are to be filed at the clerk's office at the courthouse.

1. Make copies of completed forms.

Once you have filled in all of the forms to the best of your ability, and you believe your papers are ready to file, make copies.

  • make a copy for each tenant you want evicted,
  • plus two additional copies for you to keep.

2. File Forms at the Court.

The original papers should be filed in the courthouse that covers the location of the rental unit.

You will have to pay a filing fee. You can call the clerk's office before you go to find out the fee, and how you can pay.

  • Get information on filing fees in California.
  • If you cannot afford the filing fees, you may file a "Fee Waiver" form to ask if the judge will allow you to pay less or nothing at all.

NOTE: After papers have been filed in court, copies of these papers need to be given to all tenants involved. This procedure is called "service of process" and is a very important step in the proceeding. For information on how to "serve" your forms, go to the next topic in this list.

Serve Tenants with Copies of Filed Forms

Just as copies of the original "Notice" to the tenant had to be "served" following a set procedure, so copies of the "Summons" and "Complaint" have to be "served" to each tenant following a procedure. This is different from service of the original "3-Day Notice" (or whichever Notice you used).

NOTE: You cannot serve your own court papers.

  • An adult (18 years old or older) who is not involved in the case could be asked to serve these papers, or you could hire a registered process server to do this.
  • The most common method of service is personal service. This means that the person who serves the papers must tell the tenants that they are being served and leave the papers with them.
  • If the names of people living on the property are not known and they are given copies of the Summons and Complaint, they are also given a copy of this form:
  • If it is not possible to simply give the tenants copies of the papers, other methods of service are possible.

Next, you need to tell the court that you have properly served the papers. For information on how to do this, go to the next topic in this list.

Proof that these papers have been served is required.

This is called "proof of service," and is done by having the person who served the papers fill out this form and return it to the landlord:

  • Proof of Service of Summons (Form POS-010)

The original "Summons" and "Proofs of Service" are to be filed with the court.

After the tenants have been served and the Proof of Service forms have been completed, you, the landlord, need to go back to the courthouse and file the papers with a court clerk. (Remember to keep a copy for yourself!)

If a tenant has had an unlawful detainer Summons and Complaint personally served to him or her, the tenant usually has only 5 days, including Saturdays and Sundays but excluding all other judicial holidays, to file a written response with the court. (See Code of Civil Procedure, Section 1167.3)

For information about other types of service and possible response times, review these Deadlines to Respond.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If the tenant DOES NOT file a written "Answer" within 5 days, the court will rule that the landlord has the right to evict the tenant. This is called a default judgment, and will result in the eviction process moving forward quickly.

After the tenant has prepared an "Answer," a copy of this must be given to the landlord, or other plaintiff. This procedure is called "service of process" and is a very important step in the proceeding. Learn more about this.

If the tenant DOES respond, normally he or she files what is called an "Answer." The tenant will use the:

  • Answer-Unlawful Detainer (Form UD-105)

For other ways a tenant may respond, see the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Courts have different rules on how to set a trial date. In some courts, the court will automatically set a trial date when the tenant files an answer. In other Courts, either the landlord or the tenant must ask for a trial date by filing a Request to Set Trial Date - Unlawful Detainer. Ask a clerk or check your Court's local rules to find out how eviction trials are set in your Court.

To Request a Trial

If your Court dos not automatically set a trial date, then you will need to request one after the Tenant files an answer.

Complete and file a Request to Set Case for Trial/UD-150 with the court saying that the case is ready for trial. You can request a jury trial with this form as well.

  • Whoever files this paper will need to "serve" a copy of it on the other party, and file a "Proof of Service" form at the courthouse. (It is usually served by 1st class mail.)
  • The other party has 5 days to serve and file a Counter-Request to Set Case for Trail/UD-150 if they are not in agreement with the information or estimates given in the original Request to Set Case for Trial.

Once the trial has been scheduled, the court will mail both parties a notice with the trial date. This notice should be received in about one week.

Generally, trials are set within 20 days from the date of the request.

Go on to the other sections of this list to get information about how to prepare for the trial.

Gather Evidence Showing the Tenant is Living in the Rental Unit Illegally.

You may want to ask witnesses to come to tell the judge what they have seen or heard.

You may want to show the judge some documents that help explain your side of the story, such as:

  • An original of the lease or rental agreement,
  • Any letter you have written or received about the property,
  • Any relevant inspection reports from the building inspector or health department,
  • Any receipts, or
  • Any relevant photographs.

Make Copies of Documents or Photographs.

Have at least three copies of all documents: one for the judge, one for the other party, and one for yourself.

Practice and Get Organized.

  • Get your paperwork organized before you come to court so that you can easily find what you need when you are in the courtroom.
  • You may want to make notes for yourself so that you don't forget to tell the judge something that you think is important.

You may want to practice what you are going to say in front of a friend or family member, so you can feel comfortable talking about this problem.

Please note it is up to the landlord to prove each point raised in his or her "complaint" against the tenant.

In California, unlawful detainer hearings take place in a courtroom. These hearings are often very short (sometimes as little as 10 - 15 minutes), so you really need to plan ahead if you want to give the judge (or jury) your information before a decision is made. To get ready for your court hearing:

Know Your Own Case

  • Read the court papers carefully. Understand what you asked for, and what the other party has asked for in their papers.
  • Before your own hearing, summarize, organize and write down the key points you want to tell the judge (or jury). Try to make it as clear and simple as you can. Be ready to explain why the court should approve (or not approve) each request. Practice speaking a few times - if you can, practice in front of friends or family.
  • Make an outline listing your reasons for each request and how the other named party responded. This will help you to speak to the judge or jury if you get nervous in court.
  • Be sure to focus on the issues that are the reason your court date was scheduled. The court cannot address issues that are not identified in the original paperwork filed to request the hearing. If you have other problems to resolve, you can schedule a separate hearing for that purpose.
  • Get ready to bring copies of all of your paperwork with you to court, including:
    • Copies of everything you've filed with the court concerning your case,
    • Copies of everything that has been served on you in this case, and
    • Any other paperwork that is related to your case.
    • Also bring a copy of an documents you have filed recently to show the court - just in case the paperwork did not make it into the file.

Find Out Where to go and What These Cases are Like

  • Plan to be on time for all court dates. Look on a map and find out where the courthouse is. Learn the schedules of the buses that will get you to the courthouse, or figure out what roads would be best if driving. Learn where to park.
  • It may be a good idea to go to the courthouse and observe another unlawful detainer (residential eviction) hearing before going to yours so that you can get a better idea of what to expect.
NOTE: If you know ahead of time that you are unable to attend the hearing in person, there may be a possibility for you to arrange to participate by telephone. Call the court clerk in your county for information and to make the necessary arrangements. Find the court in your county.
  • Dress neatly and respectfully.
  • Take all of the documents that will be needed to show to the judge. Be sure you have copies for the other side.
  • If you intend to call witnesses (other than you and the other side), and have filed and served a witness list, arrange for your witnesses to be present at court. Make sure they know where to go and that they allow plenty of time to find the courtroom. Give your witnesses a copy of this page so that they know what to expect.
  • Be on time. Allow extra time for traffic or other possible delays. (If you are delayed or unable to attend the hearing due to a car breakdown, sudden illness, or other emergency, contact the department clerk on or before your hearing time.)
  • Turn off your cell phone and/or pager when you enter the courtroom.
  • When your case is called, walk to the table or podium in front of the judge and stand facing the judge.
  • Be prepared to state your name and your relationship to the case.
  • Speak clearly and loud enough that the judge can hear you. Speak only when it is your turn.
  • When you speak to the judge, act respectfully and call him or her “your honor.” Be sure never to interrupt the judge.
  • Answer all of the judge’s questions and stop talking immediately if the judge interrupts you.
  • If you don’t understand something, say that you don’t understand. Someone will try to explain it for you.

In California, Unlawful Detainer hearings take place in a courtroom in front of a judge or a commissioner. If it has been requested, the trial can also be in front of a jury. There will be other people in the courtroom – court staff, and other people waiting for their case to be heard.

Special Note: The following are general guidelines. The actual rules may be different in each court, so learn your county's local rules of court on trial procedures.

The Judge Calls your Case

When your Unlawful Detainer case is called, you and the tenant (or the tenant’s representative) are both to go up to the tables in front of the judge.

  • You, the landlord, have officially complained that the tenant, is living in your rental unit illegally;
  • And the tenant has officially answered that you, the landlord, are trying to evict him or her illegally.

At the beginning of your hearing, the judge will ask you and the other party to state your names for the court record.

Both Sides Present Their Case

Then, the judge (and jury, if there is one) will listen to both sides of the story.

  • The judge may ask anyone any questions at anytime. He or she will examine the evidence presented by both parties.

The Judge or Jury Decide

The judge (or jury, if there is one) will decide whether or not the tenant has the legal right to remain in the rental unit. This decision will be based upon many considerations, including:

  • If you, the landlord, have fulfilled your responsibilities as outlined, for example, in (California Civil Code, Section 1941), and
  • If the tenant has fulfilled his or her responsibilities as outlined, for example, in (California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 1161).

At the hearing, the judge or jury may:

  • Decide in favor of the tenant.
    In this case the tenant does not have to move. The landlord may be ordered to pay the tenant's court costs (for example, filing fees) and the tenant's attorney's fees. However, the tenant will have to pay any rent that the court orders. OR
  • Decide in favor of the landlord.
    In this case, the tenant will have to move. In addition, the court may order the tenant to pay the landlord's court costs and any attorney's fees, and any proven damages, such as overdue rent or the cost of repairs if the tenant damaged the premises.
NOTE: There may be more than one court hearing before the case is settled.

Once the decision has been made, the judge will sign a court order stating what decision was made.

The court will give or mail a copy of this order to you.

For information about what happens after the hearing see "After the Case".