Eviction Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What if the tenant moves out after the lawsuit is filed?
- If the tenant moves out we proceed with the suit unless you instruct us to stop the suit. Since you have possession of the property you will not need us to send the Sheriff, however you may want us to get you a money judgment
(see FAQ "What is a money judgment?")
How do I get paid for the back rent?
- If you receive a money judgment, you are given the right to collect the amount of the money judgment from the tenant. Contact a Collection Agency.
What happens if the tenant does not respond to the suit?
- If the tenant does not respond to the suit in the time allowed by law, we send out the Sheriff.
- For those of you who want more detail: If the tenant does not respond to the suit we take that as tenant's default. At the same time we request the court for a judgment of possession only. After we have defaulted all the tenants and received a possession only judgment, we apply to the court for a writ, and then deliver the writ and Sheriff instructions to the Sheriff. The Sheriff is instructed to lock out the tenant.
What is a default and why does it matter?
- Once a tenant has been served with the lawsuit the tenant has a certain amount of time to respond to the court. Five days if the tenant was served personally and fifteen if the tenant was served in another manner. Once the five or fifteen days have passed, we may then file with the court a "Request for Default." This is a request we make to the court to enter the tenants default. Once we have filed this request, the tenant may no longer respond to the suit, without first receiving the court's permission.
- We generally refer to a tenant who has been defaulted as "in default." If a tenant has been defaulted, that means there will not be a trial, which saves the landlord about 25 days. Typically, we request the Sheriff lock out the tenant at the same time we request the tenant's default.
- One issue that often arises is that we request the default of a tenant who has responded to the court. This happens when the tenant has responded, but the court records do not reflect that response. We typically do not learn of the response for about a week. At that time we immediately set the case for trial.
How much time does a tenant have to answer the lawsuit after they are served?
- Five days if the suit was delivered to them personally. Fifteen days if the suit was delivered to them by another method. Charlton Weeks LLP makes all efforts to serve the lawsuit personally.
What does the tenant do after they are served with the eviction suit?
- The tenant can ignore the suit, in which case they will be defaulted (about 66% of the time). See the FAQ on defaults. The tenant can answer the suit (about 33% of the time). See the FAQ on answers.
- The tenant can also file bankruptcy, which is rare. See the FAQ on Bankruptcy. There are other litigations tactics available, but they are very very rare.
What is an "Answer"?
- An answer is the most common response of the tenant to the eviction suit.
- An answer is a document wherein the tenant explains why they think the Court should decide in their favor. Tenants answer about 40% of the time. As soon as all the tenants have answered or we have defaulted them, we can set the case for trail. Charlton Weeks LLP will set the case for trial as soon as possible.
How soon is trial, why does it take so long to get to trial?
- Charlton Weeks LLP requests trial as soon as possible. We usually receive a trial date about 25 days after we request it. The court will only schedule so many trials for one day, so once that day is filled up, the trial goes to the next day. Also, due to the state budget, the court is understaffed, so the court may not be able to schedule a trial as soon as it would otherwise have, if it had a full staff.
- Unfortunately, no procedure exists to have an earlier trial date.
Does it matter what the tenant says in the "Answer." Does it matter if the tenant lies?
- While the laws for evictions and other types of litigation are the same, those laws are implemented differently for evictions suits. This is one of those examples.
- Judges barely, if at all, look at what the tenant's answer states. The law limits the tenant to those defenses set forth in the answer, but as a practical matter, judges do not restrict the tenant to only those defenses set forth in the answer.
- Since this is the case, what the tenant states in the answer usually doesn't matter. Usually what the tenant states in the answer, even if it were true, would not effect the eviction case. The most common example is a claim by the tenant that the landlord refused to accept the rent. Unless the refusal took place within the three day notice period, this is irrelevant because the landlord has no obligation to accept the rent after the three day period expires.
- For some items in the answer, we may give you a telephone call and discuss the issue. At Charlton Weeks LLP we always assume that the tenant is lying unless we hear differently from you.
- Often the tenant will call the landlord bad names or make outlandish accusations. We sympathize with you, but rest assured, the Judge pays no attention to name calling and outlandish accusations. They have heard it all before and will forget it as fast as they pick up the next file.
What ways can the tenant respond to the suit other than an answer?
- It is very rare for a tenant to respond to the court with other than an answer. However, the tenant can also file pretrial motions or file bankruptcy. The pretrial motions always lose and are just a stalling tactic. Charlton Weeks LLP will dispose of them as fast as possible, but they will still delay the eviction for one to two weeks. For bankruptcy, see the FAQ on Bankruptcy.
This information is only certain to be true in the Antelope Valley of California. While these FAQs are generally true, they have not been checked against such things as local county or local Court rules except in the Antelope Valley. If you are anywhere other than in the Antelope Valley, you should check with local Counsel before making any plans based on this information.