This article explores ten key steps in winning any Unlawful Detainer case. This is not a complete discussion of what it takes to win an eviction case, but is simply a summary of what a good landlord should do before trial with any Unlawful Detainer legal action.
- Landlords must prepare the tenant file prior to serving the Notice to Quit. The importance of having an organized tenant file that contains all the pertinent information on the tenant is the first step in winning any Unlawful Detainer case
The tenant file should have: (a) A fully completed rental application that includes basic tenant information and name, address and telephone number of references; (b) Written rental agreement; (c) Move-In Inspection Report; (d) Copies of all correspondence to and from the tenant; (e) Rent receipts/rental ledger; (f) Periodic unit inspection reports; (g) Government agency inspection reports, citation(s), warning(s), responses; (h) Warning notices to tenant; (i) LARSO Registration and Payment receipts if applicable in Los Angeles; (j) Notices of Change of Terms of Tenancy; (k) All Notices to Vacate; (k) Rental agreement and (l) Pictures of the rental property;
- The Notice to Quit should be prepared by an experienced property manager/property management company and reviewed by an experienced Unlawful Detainer attorney or prepared by an experienced eviction attorney.
If the landlord is preparing the Notice to Quit it must be reviewed at least twice before it is served on the tenant to make sure it complies with current California Law. That is why the Notice should be prepared by an experienced eviction law firm or by a very experienced property manager/property management company. Many eviction cases are lost because the Notice is incorrect.
- Service of the Notice to Quit should be done by a registered process server or the on-site manger.
- Hire an experienced eviction law firm. Do not try to litigate an eviction case on your own – known legally as “in pro per” which is a person who appears before a Court without a legal representative or lawyer – as you probably will miss a critical point and lose the case. If the landlord is a corporation or a limited liability company check the Secretary of State Web site before sending your eviction case to your attorney to ensure that the Corporation and/or Limited Liability Company is active.
- Preparation of the Unlawful Detainer complaint should not be left to an amateur. The Complaint is the second most important element after the Notice for winning the case. The complaint must state the proper cause of action, must state the facts accurately, and must be verified under the penalty of perjury. Even a little error in the preparation of the complaint can cause issues either at trial or in motions filed by the Defendant. Always have the Complaint prepared by a California licensed and experienced Unlawful Detainer attorney.
- The next step is making sure the Summons and Complaint is filed with the court and served properly.
- If the Defendant files an Answer to the Complaint, the Answer must be reviewed to determine what the affirmative defenses are. If the Answer is filed by one of the indigent defendant defense firms and you are representing yourself in pro per, immediately hire an experience Unlawful Detainer attorney who can direct the case to a successful conclusion.
- If the Defendant has raised defenses concerning habitability or any defective conditions of the rental property make sure you immediately serve a 24 hour notice of right to enter and inspect. Take your cell phone and make sure you take photographs and/or a video from the moment you get to the front door at the appointed time to the time your leave.
- Conduct discovery on any issues such as the breach of the warranty of habitability, retaliation, discrimination, violation of the LARSO and any other affirmative defenses set forth in the Answer to the Complaint. Discovery can be in the form of questions, called interrogatories, Request for Admissions, and Request to Produce Documents.
- Prior to the trial date make sure your tenant file has all the evidence you need to win this case. Correspondence to and from the tenant, citations from any governmental agency and closure of those citations, rent ledger, photographs of the rental property and any other documents you need to prove the Unlawful Detainer case are essential to emerge the winner.
At Fast Eviction Service, help on any of the issues discussed in this article is simply a click or phone call away. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at (800) 686-8686 to discuss your questions for a free evaluation of your case.
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