Sunday, November 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Renter doesn’t pay but judge lets her stay in the house

By
From page C3 | October 06, 2012 |

Q:  We own three rental homes we have had for more than 15 years now. Since both my husband and I are retired, we have the time to do the management ourselves and, with only a few bumps in the road, haven’t had a lot of problems. That is until this year. Earlier this year we put a new tenant into one of the houses. We checked her credit score and did all of that, and she seemed to check out fine. The tenant paid first and last rent when she moved in, but hasn’t paid a penny since. That was almost five months ago.

We finally got fed up and used a document preparation service to prepare a three-day notice for the tenant. When she didn’t pay, we filed a lawsuit. The tenant then filed an answer to the lawsuit. It took us weeks to figure out what to do next since the people who did our paperwork aren’t lawyers and wouldn’t tell us anything more regarding what to do. But eventually a woman at the courthouse showed us how to request a trial.

We went to the court trial and the tenants showed up with a lawyer. He argued that our notice wasn’t right and that repairs were supposed to be made to the house and a bunch of other things. The bottom line was the judge denied our lawsuit, let the woman stay, and told us we had to pay for her lawyer. I have since gotten a self-help book on evictions and read through the process. It looks to us like we did everything right. Can you help shed some light?

A:  You know that old saying about bringing a knife to a gun fight?  It seldom turns out well for the blade-holder.

The truth is that evictions in California aren’t particularly complicated. In fact, the paperwork is far easier, faster and less technical than an ordinary superior court suit.

But the devil is in the proverbial details.

Eviction lawsuits, known as unlawful detainer lawsuits, constitute a unique form of court action.

Whereas a “normal” lawsuit may take a year or more to resolve through trial, the California legislature recognized long ago that it wouldn’t be fair for a landlord to have to house a tenant for 12 months just to throw them out for not paying their rent.

So they devised a system which is, generally, both fast and arguably fair.

A landlord can file his lawsuit and actually get to trial in as little as two to three weeks. If he wins, a deputy sheriff can be at the property to remove the tenant in less than a week after trial.

But, and here’s the big “but,” all of the responsibility for doing everything right rests on the shoulders of the landlord.

This makes sense since the landlord is, in effect, trying to take away the tenant’s home and the process leaves the tenant with very little time to do something about it.

That means your three-day notice had to be perfect. It had to state exactly how much rent is owed, who to pay it to, the address where it could be paid and a lot of other things. Any problem with any part of the notice invalidates the entire lawsuit.

Additionally, the notice had to be served properly and properly attached to your lawsuit’s paperwork.

Then, of course, the lawsuit’s written complaint had to be perfect.

I have no doubt a legal document preparer could fill out the papers correctly. But simply based upon your email I have no idea if they were prepared perfectly.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, the papers were filled out correctly and served properly.

When you go to court, the entire burden is upon you to prove you did everything correctly.

The tenant showed up with a lawyer. It’s likely the attorney raised a host of questions about your three-day notice with the expectation that you didn’t know enough about the law and the process to defend the quality of the notice.

In other words, once the tenant raised the question, it was up to you to prove you did it right. Unlike small claims court, it isn’t the judge’s job to figure it all out without your help. In fact, the judge’s job is to side with the tenant until the landlord can prove he has a lawful right to evict.

Regarding the repairs, that’s a far more complicated area of landlord-tenant law. I can guess the arguments were about something called “habitability” issues.

In other words, did the house comply with certain health and safety codes?

But that’s a complicated legal and factual question.

I am a big fan of readers resolving their disputes in small-claims court because it’s quick, cheap and logistically simple.

But you can’t go to small-claims court to do an eviction.

Unlawful detainer lawsuits are also quick, and even relatively cheap, but the technical complexities can be used by a tenant’s attorney, or just a knowledgeable tenant, against a non-attorney landlord.

On this one, I have to recommend that you use a law firm to evict your tenant. Feel free to call a property management company or two and ask them who they use for their evictions.

Tim Jones is a real estate attorney in Fairfield. If you have any real estate questions you would like to have answered in this column you can contact him at SolanoScene@TJones-Law.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Fairfield-Suisun sits between bay, valley

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 10 Comments | Gallery

 
Salvation Army gets ready for Thanksgiving

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Teens at Boys & Girls Clubs get their own place

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
New mobile office adds reach to The Salvation Army

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1

Time to start a local hall of fame

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2, 5 Comments

 
Conservancy plans Quail Ridge Walk in December

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Film festival brings people together for good causes

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Advance preparation mitigates frost damage

By Kathy Low | From Page: C4

 
Sudden Infant Death awareness and prevention

By Susan Whalen | From Page: C4

Weather for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B6

 
 
Two injured in Fairfield shooting

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A12, 10 Comments

.

US / World

Storms raise hope in California drought

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Gambling nuke commander linked to fake poker chips

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Winners and losers under Obama’s immigration plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
Kohler introduces odor-eating toilet seat

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Civic group: No Ferguson grand jury decision yet

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
WWII mementos found in suitcase at thrift store

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Hawaii airline tells pilots to return $4,000 bonus

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

Dogfighting thrives in years since Vick case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Man sets house on fire, kills responding deputy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Report: Washington toddler shot playing with gun

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police: Pregnant woman, 3 others fatally shot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Official: SD man kills 4, including self, wounds 1

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Pope meets with autistic children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Biden announces new aid for Syrian refugees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
AP sources: Obama broadens mission in Afghanistan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Somalia’s al-Shabab kills 28 non-Muslims in Kenya

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

 
Kerry says gaps remain in talks about Iran’s nukes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Iraqi forces, Islamic State group battle in Ramadi

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Japan earthquake collapses homes, causes injuries

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

.

Opinion

 
State Capitol braces for budget battle

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoon: Nov. 23, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
Act of kindness at Raiders game

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 6 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Nov. 23, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Nov. 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Give the gift of gratitude this holiday season

By Dalia Adams | From Page: C3

 
Buddhist community builds shrine in Pineville yard

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

Caught up in the spirt of the music

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
Horoscopes for Nov. 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

Hackers can get into everything, including your camera lens

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
Library project puts 50 years of yearbooks online

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6, 1 Comment

Metrosexuals be gone: Europe is agog for beards

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Graphic novel teaching history at Mississippi schools

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

.

Entertainment

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
Lamott offers healing words in ‘Small Victories’

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

Eddie Izzard has book deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
Whoopi Goldberg writing book about marriage

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

Bryan Cranston reads profane hit nursery rhyme

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

Cousins lifts sluggish Kings over Wolves, 113-101

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Stanford routs rival Cal 38-17 in 117th Big Game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sacramento State downs UC Davis 41-30

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49ers host Redskins looking for third straight win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Vermette nets winner for Coyotes vs. Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Green says he’s ready to return to lineup for Broncos

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bills practice in Detroit prepping for Jets game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

No. 4 Duke tops Stanford to win Coaches vs Cancer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Vacaville Christian’s Kenyon voted Sierra Delta League MVP

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Suzy Whaley becomes 1st female officer at PGA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Giants World Series exhibit goes on display Monday

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rivalry 150 goes to Lafayette, 27-7 over Lehigh

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Harvard beats Yale 31-24 in The Game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Oklahoma’s Perine runs for record 427 yards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Bowling results for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B4

Bocce results for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B4

 
Bicycle racing for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B4

Granada clings to 1-shot lead at LPGA finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Swiss lead France 2-1 in Davis Cup final

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
This date in sports history for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Business

Businesses cash in as women chase bigger butts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Tips on getting deals during Black Friday blitz

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Most US unemployed don’t get benefits: Here’s why

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

At a Glance: Pros, cons of mobile-payment systems

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
Review: No cash, cards, just mobile pay for a week

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

Recalls this week: strollers, candles, chargers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Obituaries

Norah Dean

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Florentina R. Dulay Florendo

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Albert M. Ranzani

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics