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The following material has been prepared by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to clarify some questions concerning Landlord-Tenant disputes. The various steps required to obtain a judgment in court can be complex. It is therefore always recommended that an attorney be contacted if confronted with a problem tenant. No one else is authorized or competent to give all the necessary advice.

ILLEGAL EVICTION. The property owner desiring to recover premises occupied by a tenant must follow certain legal procedures and cannot resort to "self help."

789.3 Civil Code

  • A landlord shall not with intent to terminate the occupancy under any lease or other tenancy or estate at will, however created, of property used by a tenant as his residence willfully cause, directly or indirectly, the interruption or termination of any utility service furnished the tenant, including, but not limited to, water, heat, light, electricity, gas, telephone, elevator, or refrigeration, whether or not the utility service is under the control of the landlord.



  • In addition, a landlord shall not, with intent to terminate the occupancy under any lease or other tenancy or estate at will, however created, of property used by a tenant as his or her residence, willfully:



    • Prevent the tenant from gaining reasonable access to the property by changing the locks or using a bootlock or by any other similar method or device;



    • Remove outside doors or windows; or



    • Remove from the premises the tenant's personal property, the furnishings, or any other items without the prior written consent of the tenant . . .



Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prevent the lawful eviction of a tenant by appropriate legal authorities, nor shall anything in this subdivision apply to . . . (motels or hotels.)

  • Any landlord who violates this section shall be liable to the tenant in a civil action for all of the following:


  • Actual damages of the tenant.



  • An amount not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) for each day or part thereof the landlord remains in violation of this section. In determining the amount of such award, the court shall consider proof of such matters as justice may require; however, in no event shall less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) be awarded for each separate cause of action . . .



TENANT NOTICES. Various types of notices are available at stationary stores. For example, a three-day notice to pay rent or quit may be used if the tenant is behind on the rent. Or, a thirty-day notice to terminate may be appropriate if rent is paid monthly. The proper notice must be legally served on the tenant. The Sheriff may be utilized to serve the notice, but someone other than the Sheriff may serve it. While there are alternative methods of service allowed by law, the notice is generally served personally upon the tenant.

UNLAWFUL DETAINER LAWSUIT. If the tenant refuses to move out under terms of the notice, a complaint must be filed in the proper court for recovery of possession of the premises. This action is termed "Unlawful Detainer."

SUMMONS AND COMPLAINT. After the complaint is filed, the court will issue a summons. A copy of this summons and a copy of the complaint must then be served upon the tenant. The Sheriff, or anyone over the age of 18 and not a party to the action, may serve the summons and complaint.

JUDGMENT. The tenant has five days, after the summons is served, to file a written answer with the court. If the tenant files the answer, wanting to contest the case, the court will set a date for trial. At the end of the five day period, if the tenant has not filed an answer to the complaint, a default judgment may be entered by the court.

WRIT OF EXECUTION (POSSESSION OF REAL PROPERTY). Once a judgment is rendered, the court may issue a writ of execution (possession of real property). This is the authority upon which forcible eviction of the tenant may be made. ONLY THE SHERIFF MAY ENFORCE THIS WRIT. The original writ and four copies, signed instructions to enforce the writ, and a fee deposit are required.

EVICTION PROCEDURE. The procedure for eviction, once the writ is delivered to the Sheriff for serving, is spelled out in Section 1174 of the Code of Civil Procedure. From the date of service of the writ by the Sheriff, the tenant is given five (5) days to vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to move out within the five day period, the Sheriff must conduct a forcible eviction.

Custody of all personal property of the tenant remaining on the premises at the time of forcible eviction is temporarily given to the landlord who must store it in a place of safekeeping. The tenant may redeem the personal property upon payment of reasonable costs of storage. The cost of storage shall be the fair rental value of the space reasonably required for storage for the term of the storage if the landlord stores the persona! property on the premises. Claims of Exemption and Third Party Claims on the defendant's property cannot be filed with the Sheriff.

If the belongings of the tenant are not redeemed within fifteen (15) days, they may be sold at public auction (by the plaintiff) or otherwise disposed of in accordance with Section 1174 of the Code of Civil Procedure. After deduction of the costs of storage, advertising, and sale, any balance of the proceeds of the sale which is not claimed by the former tenant must be paid into the county treasury.

RE-ENTRY AFTER EVICTION. Occasionally, after eviction by virtue of a Writ of Execution (Possession of Real Property), a tenant will decide to move back into the premises. The following laws may be enforced against the tenant by the local police department or Sheriff's patrol station.

419 Penal Code

"Every person who has been removed from any lands by process of law, or who has removed from any lands pursuant to the lawful adjudication or direction of any court, tribunal, or officer, and who afterwards unlawfully returns to settle, reside upon, or take possession of such lands, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

A landlord desiring to take action under the above section should have a copy of the writ under which the eviction was made, and in cases executed by the Sheriff, a copy of the Sheriff's receipt for possession of the property.

602.5 Penal Code

"Every person other than a public officer or employee acting within the course and scope of his employment in performance of a duty imposed by law, who enters or remains in any noncommercial dwelling house, apartment, or other such place without consent of the owner, or his agent, or the person in lawful possession thereof, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

1210 Civil Code

"Every person dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or process of any court of competent jurisdiction, who, not having right so to do, reenters into or upon or takes possession of the real property, or induces or procures any person not having a right so to do, or aids or abets such a person therein, is guilty of a contempt of the court by which the judgment was rendered or from which the process issued. Upon a conviction for contempt the court must immediately issue an alias process, directed to the proper officer, and requiring the officer to restore possession to the party entitled under the original judgment or process . . . "

This section is enforceable only upon the defendants having been found guilty of contempt by the court itself. The plaintiff (landlord) must file a petition with the court, whereupon the defendant (tenant) may be ordered into court for a hearing regarding possible contempt. If found guilty by the court, the other provisions of the section may be carried out.

JUDGE DECIDES

If the judge decides in your favor, the clerk of the court will enter a judgment against the defendant. The defendant should pay the money directly to you.

IF THE DEBT IS PAID

You must file a satisfaction of judgment with the clerk of the court within 15 days after the debt is paid.

IF THE DEBT IS NOT PAID

If the debt is not paid within a few days, make a demand upon the debtor by letter, telephone, or in person. Making a demand could save you time and money.

ORDER FOR APPEARANCE OF JUDGMENT DEBTOR

If you do not know what property the defendant has or where it is located, you should take steps to obtain this information. One way to ascertain the debtor's assets is to obtain an order for appearance of judgment debtor. The order requires the debtor to appear in court to answer questions under oath concerning the debtor's property. If the debtor fails to appear in court, the court may issue a warrant for debtor's arrest.


The order is obtained from the court clerk. The Sheriff will attempt to serve the order upon payment of a fee deposit.  Refer to the Civil Process page for fee amounts.

WRIT OF EXECUTION

If the judgment debtor does not pay the judgment, you may obtain a writ of execution and three copies from the court clerk. The writ gives the Sheriff the authority to seize property of the judgment debtor and is valid for 180 days after its issuance.

INSTRUCTIONS TO THE SHERIFF


You must give the Sheriff signed, written instructions to levy on (seize) and sell, if necessary, specific property belonging to the debtor to satisfy your judgment. You may instruct the Sheriff to levy on property such as wages, bank account, vehicle, place of business or real property.

FEE DEPOSIT

The law requires the Sheriff to charge fees for each levy. You must pay a fee deposit, in advance, from which the Sheriff will deduct fees. Fee deposits range from $30 for a wage garnishment to $3500 or more to levy on a business. In addition to the Sheriff's levy fee, other costs may include charges for moving and storage, towing, recording, publishing in a newspaper, and keepers. Any unused portion of the fee deposit will be refunded. Sheriff fees are added to your judgment and increases the amount the debtor must pay to fully satisfy the case.

EARNINGS WITHHOLDING ORDER

To levy on the debtor's wages, you must give the Sheriff a completed application for earnings withholding order, the writ of execution and one copy, and a $30 fee deposit.

The employer is required to remit 25% of the debtor's disposable (net) wages to the Sheriff. The withholding period begins 10 days after the earnings withholding order is served and continues for up to 10 years. Within 15 days after service of the order, the employer is also required to mail a completed employer's return to the Sheriff indicating the status and income of the defendant. A copy of the employer's return will be mailed to you.

BANK GARNISHMENT

To levy on (garnish) a bank account, you must give the Sheriff signed written instructions indicating the name and address of the bank (cross streets are unacceptable), the account number, if known, the writ of execution and two copies, and a $35 fee deposit.

Within 10 days after service of the garnishment, the bank is required to remit any money in the account at the time of levy, up to the amount of your judgment plus costs, to the Sheriff. The bank is also required to mail to the Sheriff a completed memorandum of garnishee indicating the status of the account. A copy of the memorandum will be mailed to you.

BUSINESS LEVY

You may instruct the Sheriff to seize money in the cash register (till tap) at the debtor's place of business at the time of levy. The fee deposit for a till tap is $85.

You may instruct the Sheriff to place a keeper in the debtor's place of business for a period of time. The keeper will collect all money received by the business and prevent the removal of equipment or inventory. The fee deposit for an 8 hour keeper installation is $300.

You may instruct the Sheriff to seize and sell the debtor's personal property (equipment and inventory) at the debtor's business. A keeper may be installed to collect money and prevent the removal of any property until the property is moved to storage. After giving 10 days notice of sale, the property will be sold at public auction. The fee deposit is at least $1500 plus the estimated costs to move and store property.

REAL ESTATE LEVY

To levy on real property, contact the Real Estate Section at 110 N. Grand Ave., Room 525, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 974-4827. Real estate levies can be complex and are handled exclusively by the Real Estate Section.


THIRD PARTY CLAIMS



Before instructing the Sheriff to levy on property, you should try to determine if it is wholly or partially owned by someone else. For instance, a bank may be the legal owner of a vehicle. If so, the bank may file a third party claim demanding payment of the amount owed on the vehicle. You will be notified of the third party claim and given the opportunity to pay the third party or post a bond. If you do not, the property will be released to the debtor.

CLAIM OF EXEMPTION

The debtor may claim that the property is exempt for a variety of reasons. The Sheriff will notify you if a claim of exemption is filed. If you do not oppose the exemption, the property will be released.

ABSTRACT OF JUDGMENT


You may place a lien on the debtor's real property by recording an abstract of judgment with the County Recorder. The abstract of judgment is issued by the court clerk. The County Recorder will charge a recording fee. The Sheriff does not record abstracts of judgment with the County Recorder.

COUNTY AUDITOR

All monies collected by the Sheriff are deposited into the county treasury and held for 21 days under the financial control of the County Auditor. Money is disbursed by the County Auditor, not the Sheriff. The Sheriff is restricted from giving out the County Auditor's telephone number. Any inquiries regarding the payment of money must be directed to the appropriate Branch of the Sheriff's Department handling your case.


LEGAL NAME OF DEBTOR

The Sheriff cannot levy on a debtor's property unless the debtor is properly named. The legal name of the debtor is very important. For instance, a fictitious business name (dba) is purely descriptive and is not a legal name. If the writ of execution lists the debtor as "John Smith dba Smith Plumbing," the legal name of the debtor is John Smith, not Smith Plumbing.

Although the Sheriff cannot give legal advice, we can inform you of our procedures and policies concerning the service and execution of civil process. A general overview of the enforcement of a money judgment is available in our brochure, What Happens After Judgment? For eviction procedures, you may read our brochure, Landlord/Tenant Information. If you already know what type of civil process or service you want the Sheriff to serve or perform, go the a Civil Process page for detailed information.

Court Services Division does not have a central office. Our work is distributed among 21 Branch offices according to the type of process and service address. It is important to utilize the correct Branch to avoid delays caused by sending your process to the wrong Branch office. Use the Civil Branch Locator on the Civil Process page to ascertain the proper civil process Branch office.

The law requires the Sheriff to charge fees ranging from $25 to more than $3,500, depending on the type of civil process. The fees for most types of service are listed in the Information Guides for each type of process.

Some, but not all, Sheriff fees can be waived by court order. Contact the clerk of court handling your case to obtain an application for an in forma pauperis waiver. The Sheriff will accept a properly completed and certified copy of an in forma pauperis waiver in lieu of certain fees.

At this time, certain legal constraints and technological obstacles prevent the Sheriff from accepting fees and civil process by electronic transmission. However, it is our intention to seek legislation and funding to make electronic filing a reality in the near future.

With few exceptions, all information, including litigant names, addresses and telephone numbers, are public record as a matter of law.

It is difficult to anticipate when the Sheriff will serve your process. Most types of process must be served within certain legal time limits. If personal service is legally required, the Sheriff will make up to three attempts to serve your process. A high volume of process and/or a shortage of personnel may hamper our efforts to expeditiously serve your process. Consequently, we ask that you give us your process as soon as possible. With the exception of certain domestic violence cases, we generally do not attach a higher priority to any particular type of process. We understand that every case is a personal priority to the concerned litigants and try to manage our offices efficiently to provide the best service possible using available resources.

The Sheriff's fees are established by statute. The Sheriff must charge a fee not only for service but also for a Not Found or Cancellation. A Not Found fee is charged if the person cannot be served at the given address. For example, a Not Found fee is charged if the process cannot be served at an address because the person no longer works or lives there. A Cancellation fee is charged if you want to cancel the service. We automatically provide you a written explanation of all fees charged.

The law requires the Sheriff to immediately deposit all cash and checks in the County treasury. If you are entitled to a refund or other payment from the Sheriff, the County Auditor will mail you a county warrant (check). Please direct all inquiries to the Branch office handling your case. We are prohibited from giving out the telephone number of the County Auditor.

Much of the law concerning the service and execution of civil process is covered in the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP). Process brought to the Sheriff for service must be valid on its face, issued by a competent authority and accompanied by adequate legal instructions. The instructions must indicate the process to be served, the person or entity to be served, the location for service and be signed by the attorney of the party or by the party, if he has no attorney. Instruction forms for specific types of levies and service requests are available on the Civil Process page. Also, there are usually time restrictions regarding the service and enforcement of various types of civil process. The fees for service of process are set in accordance with the California Government Code, 26720 et. seq. Many types of civil process can be served by anyone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the action or by a registered process server. Registered Process Servers may be found in the telephone yellow pages under process server, registered process server or attorney service.

OUR CORE VALUES
    
As a leader in the Los Angeles County
Sheriff's Department,
I commit myself to honorably perform my
duties with
respect for the dignity of all people,
integrity to do right and fight wrongs,
wisdom to apply common sense and
fairness in all I do and
courage to stand against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism,
homophobia and bigotry in all its forms.

COURT SERVICES MISSION

It is the mission of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Court Services Division to provide professional security and support services to the Trial Courts of Los Angeles County.

The Court Services Division pledges to accomplish its mission through a partnership with the Trial Courts, the communities within them, and in accordance with constitutional rights, enforcement of laws, preservation of the peace, and the creation of a safe and secure environment for all.

COURT SERVICES PERSONNEL

Court Services Division personnel provide services for 585 Bench Officers, 634 courtrooms and 58 court buildings:

Sworn Peace Officers

1,535

Security Officers. 133
Security Assistants 155
Professional Staff 268

CIVIL PROCESS For the year 2000:

Processes received 274,945
Notices to Vacate served 48,167
Evictions performed 29,900
Evictions cleared 48,346
Vehicle Inspections 64,289
    
Total amount collected $65,282,122.64
      
Total amount paid out $66,016,338.97

SECURITY OPERATIONS UNIT (S.O.U.)

This unit is responsible for investigating threats made against judicial officers, members of the Board of Supervisors, Chief Administrative Officer, and other elected officials. A member of the SOU fills the position of Sergeant-at-Arms when the Board of Supervisors is in session.

COURT SECURITY & PLANNING

This unit conducts security audits of each courthouse facility. The following major categories are a part of each audit: Building Perimeter/Interior Doors and Locks, Emergency Power, Communications, Security Systems, Courthouse Lighting, Detention Areas, Bus Sallyports, and Custody Movement.

WARRANT UNIT For the year 2000:

Total warrants received 10,880
Total priority warrants assigned 2,082
Total priority warrants investigated 2,566
Recalled/other disposition 355
Misdemeanants arrested by unit 230
Felons arrested by unit 149
Total priority warrant arrests 340
Total priority warrants cleared by arrest/field contact 871
Total warrants cleared 954

TRAINING UNIT

Court Services Division Training Unit is responsible for training 1900 sworn and civilian personnel. The Unit has developed, and contracted with outside vendors, to provide 66 different training topics. A sampling of courses include: bailiff orientation, levy crew training, force 1, 2, & 3, First Aid, CPR and a Security Officer/Assistant program.

WEAPONS SCREENING PROGRAM For the year 2000:

Persons screened 15,894,824
Firearms detected 374
Arrests/citations 39
Restricted items held 16,403
Denied access 111,271

INMATE TRANSPORTATION For the year 2000:

Custodies transported 1,337,089
Average transported daily 3,653
Miles driven 2,605,413
Buses 72
Vans 18
Sedans 4

 

BAILIFFS' PURPOSE AND SCOPE

Bailiffs and/or prisoner control deputies execute the following responsibilities:

  • Inspect and secure their courtrooms, judge's chambers, holding cell(s), and adjacent areas for weapons, explosives, and contraband.
  • Secure entry/exit inmate routes from lockup to court and back.
  • Respond to an emergency situation, i.e., escape, natural disaster, building evacuation, accordingly.
  • Preserve the overall safety and security of the courthouse environment for the judiciary, executives, staff, and the general public.

Criminal Cases Calendared in the Courts for the Year 2000:

         Cases filed through former Municipal Court

Felony 55,735
Misdemeanor 359,245
Infractions 1,600,954
Felony 55,613
Misdemeanor 346,599