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 Code of Civil Procedure:
- 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
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
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 Code of Civil Procedure
"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.