A landlord can evict a tenant after a lease is up if the lease is a fixed-term lease, or a lease for a specific period of time. The landlord does not have to give notice in this scenario. The landlord may file an unlawful detainer (eviction) case without giving notice first. Yet if the lease contains a notice clause, the landlord must provide notice. If the landlord accepts rent after the lease runs out, that creates a new month-to-month tenancy.
The best practice is to give a renter notice before the end of the lease term to avoid the creation of a holdover tenancy. A holdover tenant is one who stays on after the lease ends. Giving notice also helps the landlord comply with California’s 3-day, 30-day, 60-day and 90-day notice requirements.
Proper Notice Rent-Controlled Units
The exception to the rule that no notice is needed for a fixed-term lease is if the rental unit is in a rent-controlled area. Then a landlord cannot evict the tenant without just cause, or a good reason.
The landlord will need to provide a notice to the tenant if they are evicting the tenant for just cause. A landlord should contact an attorney, legal aid office or self-help center or local government official to determine if they live in a rent-controlled area. If a tenant works for the landlord and lives on the property as part of the job, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case without notice upon terminating the job.
Different Types of Notices
The different types of notices in California include a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit; a 3-day notice to perform covenants or quit; a 3-day notice to quit; a 30-day or 60-day notice to quit; and a 90-day notice to quit. The 3-day notice to pay rent or quit is for a tenant behind on the rent, while a 3-day notice to perform covenants or quit is for a tenant who is violating the lease agreement and the problem can be fixed. A 3-day notice to quit is appropriate for a tenant who has been causing a nuisance on the property.
A landlord should give a 30-day notice if a tenant has been renting for less than a year. A landlord should give a 60-day notice if the tenant has been renting for one year or more. A 90-day notice to quit is for subsidized housing, or Section 8 housing.
For a 90-day notice, a landlord must state why they are requesting the tenant to move out. The landlord must have just cause to ask the tenant to leave. In some cases, a landlord can give a tenant multiple notices at the same time. If the tenant does what the notice requests, like pay the back rent in full, the landlord cannot file an unlawful detainer legal action.
Termination Notice Must Comply With Law
A notice is not a court form. A landlord can buy a notice form online or in a store. But some notices do not comply with California law. A tenant who gets a notice that does not meet the legal requirements may have a defense to an eviction case.
Typically, all types of notices must be in writing, state the full name of the tenant or tenants and state the address of the rental property. If the notice concerns the nonpayment of rent, the notice must state exactly how much rent the tenant owes. The notice must contain the dates of the overdue rent, as well as the address to which the tenant should pay the rent. The notice should also state how much time the tenant has to pay the rent within receiving the notice.
For example, a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit must state the rent to be paid in full within three day of receiving the notice or the tenant must move out. The notice may not include other money the tenant owes, like late fees, interest, utilities or damages.
Calculating Days for Notice Periods
The landlord cannot count Saturdays, Sundays or court holidays as part of the three days. A landlord should check a list of court holidays to know what days are considered court holidays. Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving are both considered court holidays in Shasta County, for example.
Tenant’s Rights When Lease Expires
When a lease expires, a tenant can choose to move, pay rent as a month-to-month tenant or sign a new lease. The tenant does not have a right to stay on in the unit without paying rent after the lease expires unless the landlord agrees to one of these terms. It is a good idea for a tenant to get such an agreement in writing. The maximum amount of time a tenant can stay after a lease expires depends on what the landlord allows.
A landlord who is successful in an unlawful detainer case may be able to charge the tenant a per day or per week rent for the amount of holdover time the tenant spent in the unit without paying. A landlord can raise the monthly rent for a holdover tenant. Only the essential terms of the lease will carry over into the holdover period.
Ordinance Relating to Just Cause
Oakland is one city in California that requires a landlord to have just cause to begin the eviction process. A notice to terminate or evict must state one or more of 11 just causes. The list includes failure to pay rent, material violation of rental agreement after written notice to stop, and refusal to sign a new lease with substantially the same terms as the old lease.
The expiration of a rental agreement or changes to Section 8 status of a unit are not good causes for eviction under Oakland law. A landlord must file a copy of every eviction notice with Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program within 10 days after it is served on the tenant. If the property owner fails to serve this notice, the tenant has a defense to a resulting unlawful detainer action.
Eviction During COVID-19 Pandemic
State law provides eviction protections for tenants who cannot pay their rent or other charges between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021 due to COVID-19-related financial distress. For this period, any other evictions of residential tenants must be based on just cause. California currently has a rental assistance program to pay landlords for rent due from qualifying tenants during the period extending to September 30, 2021 and beyond. Federal protections against eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic ended July 31, 2021.
- California Courts: Eviction Notices
- California Courts: Tenants: Landlord Gives You Written Notice (Step 1 of 6)
- California Courts: New Laws Apply to Eviction Cases
- City of Oakland: Understanding Evictions in Oakland
- Justia: Smyth v. Berman (2019)
- The Superior Court of California, County of Shasta: Court Holidays
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.