The California Civil Code (CC) contains most of California’s substantive landlord/ tenant law, primarily in Sections 1940 through 1991. It includes laws governing minimum building standards, payment of rent, change and termination of tenancy, privacy, security deposits, and abandoned property, to name a few. The California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) is a set of laws explaining how people enforce legal rights in civil lawsuits. Eviction lawsuit procedures are contained in Sections 1161 through 1179 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Also of interest are the small claims court procedures, covered in Sections 116.110 through 116.950.
California’s Trial and Appellate Courts
Mediating Disputes With Tenants
Mediation is a technique where a neutral third party helps people settle differences themselves, without going to court. Unlike a judge in court or an arbitrator in a formal hearing, a mediator does not impose a decision on the parties, but facilitates a compromise.
At any rate, mediation often works, and if it doesn’t, you haven’t lost much. If mediation fails, you can still fight it out in court. In fact, if you or the tenant have already filed suit in small claims court, you may find that the judge will insist that you try mediation before presenting your case in court. Call your county’s small claims court clerk to find out if this is the way your court works.
Here are some mediation groups and services.
San Joaquin County Superior Court ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Mediation Service
American Arbitration Association
A Northern California nonprofit organization with consumer education projects, a free mediation service for landlords and tenants, and authority to investigate reports of housing discrimination.
Nonlawyer Eviction Services
Filing and following through with an eviction lawsuit involves filling out a number of legal forms. And once the forms are filed with the court, they must be served on the tenant— a task that isn’t always easy. You can do it yourself, using The California Landlord’s Law Book: Evictions, or you can hire a lawyer. There is also a third route: getting help with the paperwork, filing, and service from an eviction service run by nonlawyers, known as “unlawful detainer assistants,” who must be registered with the county clerk. They exist in most metropolitan areas. For a flat fee that is usually much lower than what lawyers charge, and often at a faster pace, eviction services take the basic information from you, prepare most of the initial paperwork, file the necessary papers in court, and have the tenant served with the Summons and Complaint.
Unlawful detainer assistants must be registered and bonded as such. (B& P § § 6400– 6415.) If the service isn’t registered, don’t use it. The court forms that an eviction service prepares require you to state under penalty of perjury whether an “unlawful detainer assistant” helped you, and you must give the eviction service’s name, address, and registration number.
Lawyer Eviction Services
Like unlawful detainer assistants, lawyer-owned eviction services offer full unlawful detainer packages. They will handle everything from serving the notice through judgment and eviction. Most full eviction services are owned or run by attorneys and offer packaged services that cost less than a traditional hourly billing rate.
Most evictions, especially for nonpayment of rent, are routine and present little trouble, even when contested by the tenant. Many attorneys charge reasonable, flat-fixed rates, such as $ 500 to $ 750, to handle eviction lawsuits in nonrent-control cities.
Resolving Problems With Your Lawyer
But firing a lawyer may not be enough. Here are some tips on resolving specific problems:
- If you have a dispute over fees, the local bar association may be able to mediate it for you.
- If a lawyer has violated legal ethics— for example, conflict of interest, overbilling, or not representing you zealously— the State Bar of California may discipline or even disbar the lawyer.
- When a lawyer has made a major mistake— for example, missing the deadline for filing a case— you can sue for malpractice. Many lawyers carry malpractice insurance, and your dispute may be settled out of court. The lawyer’s engagement agreement with you, the client, must tell you if the lawyer does not carry malpractice insurance.
Your Rights as a Client
As a client, you have the following rights:
- courteous treatment by your lawyer and staff members
- an itemized statement of services rendered and a full advance explanation of billing practices
- charges for agreed-upon fees and no more
- prompt responses to phone calls and letters
- confidential legal conferences, free from unwarranted interruptions
- up-to-date information on the status of your case
- diligent and competent legal representation, and
- clear answers to all questions.
San Joaquin County Superior Court
Landlord – Tenant Issues
To learn about how to evict a tenant in Stockton, be sure to read the San Joaquin County Superior Court’s website which has updated information on specific procedures.
Self-Help / Pro Per Clinic
The court offers help for people who don’t have attorneys in the Self-Help / Pro Per Clinic including help will filling out unlawful detainer forms.
Provided by the California Courts Self-Help Division.
Chapter 1: Eviction Disputes – Introduction
Chapter 2: Eviction Disputes – Introduction
Chapter 3: Resolving an Eviction Dispute – Mediation
Chapter 4: Eviction Disputes – Resources
Chapter 5: Resolving Your Eviction Case in California Courts