How to Evict a Disabled Person in California

How to Evict a Disabled Person in California
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An eviction occurs when a landlord removes a tenant from rented or leased premises. The term is most commonly used in California to refer to the process of ousting a tenant from a residential dwelling unit. Any tenant can be evicted in California under certain circumstances, but special laws protect disabled tenants from discrimination.

Generally, a landlord cannot refuse to rent to a disabled tenant because of her disability, nor can she be evicted because of her disability. In addition, it is illegal to evict a disabled tenant because she wants to undertake reasonable housing modifications to accommodate the rental premises for her disability.

However, absent discrimination, disabled tenants can be evicted under the California codes in the same way and for the same reasons as other tenants in the state.

Discrimination Against Disabled Tenants

Both California state and federal laws prohibit housing discrimination against people with disabilities, and the protections overlap to some extent. The laws include:

  • The Fair Housing Act.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code §§12900 et seq. 
  • The Unruh Act, Civil Code §§51 et seq.

These laws protect housing applicants, tenants and buyers with any kind of mental or physical disability. Landlords violate these laws if they refuse to rent to disabled persons on the same terms offered to others, or ask questions about a disability during the application process.

Furthermore, it can be a violation if a landlord refuses to grant the disabled person's request for a reasonable accommodation of the housing unit at the tenant's expense. A landlord is also prohibited from harassing or threatening a tenant because of his disability or subjecting him to different rental terms, conditions or privileges because of the disability.

Eviction of Disabled Persons in California

A disabled person is not immune from eviction in California. A disabled person cannot be evicted for a matter relating to her disability, like keeping a service animal, installing a ramp or undertaking other reasonable accommodations necessary for her disability. But as long as the reason for the eviction is not related to the disability, the California codes do not contain any obstacles to evicting a disabled person from rental housing.

That is, a disabled person can be evicted in California for failing to pay rent, for breaching his rental agreement and for any other valid eviction grounds. This includes creating a nuisance, damaging the premises and conducting illegal activities on the premises. It also includes a termination of tenancy when no cause need be given. Rent control ordinances may provide additional protection for tenants.

Eviction in California

When someone talks about the "eviction process" in California, she is referencing the steps a landlord can legally take in a quest to get rid of a current tenant. The steps begin with an official notice to the tenant and can stop there, too, if the tenant moves out in response to that notice. However, if the tenant does not move out, the eviction process set out in the law can continue through the sheriff coming to the premises to remove the tenants and change the locks.

While a landlord always initiates the eviction process to remove a tenant, the attempt to evict is not always successful. California law not only mandates a specific procedure that the landlord must follow to evict, but it also prohibits certain evictions and restricts others. Since cities in California have the right to enact municipal rent control ordinances restricting evictions even further, a landlord's path to eviction can be a long, winding and occasionally, unsuccessful one.

Overview of Eviction Process Under State Law

California has landlord/tenant laws that set out the basic framework regulating the relationship, the rights and responsibilities of each party as well as the eviction procedure. These are the sole provisions governing eviction in most areas of the state, geographically speaking, although most large cities in California have enacted rent control laws that supersede the statutes. These include San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

The landlord/tenant provisions in the California codes call eviction a “landlord/tenant action." The landlord initiates an eviction by giving the tenant a "notice to quit." This must occur before any papers are filed in court and before a lawsuit commences. The amount of time given in the notice to quit depends on the reason for the eviction. Some types of notices are conditional.

Notice to Quit in California

A California landlord owning rental property not covered by a rent control ordinance can terminate a month-to-month tenancy without giving any reason. These are called no-cause evictions. This type of notice to quit usually must give the tenant 30 days notice, but a tenant who has lived in a unit for more than a year must be given 60 days notice.

The landlord can also evict a tenant for cause, that is, failing to pay rent, breaking the terms of the lease or rental agreement and refusing to remedy the issue, damaging the property, disturbing others or using the unit for some illegal activity. If the issue is unpaid rent or some breach that the tenant can remedy (like keeping a pet against regulations) the landlord must file a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit or a 3-day notice to remedy the defect or quit.

These conditional notices require that the tenant take the requisite action to get back in compliance with the agreement. Alternatively, the notice tells the tenant to leave the property. An unconditional 3-day notice to quit may be appropriate if the tenant is engaged in illegal activity, damages the property or creates a nuisance.

Unlawful Detainer Action

If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord's next step is to file an unlawful detainer action against her. This suit advises the court that the tenant failed to comply with the notice and remains in the property.

The tenant has a shortened time frame to respond to this notice. If she appears and contests the issues, the matter may be resolved by settlement between the parties or after a trial. If the landlord is evicting for certain illegal reasons – like to retaliate against the tenant for reporting a code violation to the city – the tenant can raise this in the pleadings. It makes the eviction itself illegal.

After the Trial

Once the trial is done and the judge or jury has made its decision, a court judgment is issued. Either side can appeal. If a tenant wins the case, the landlord may be liable for her attorney fees and costs. If a tenant loses the case and appeals, she must seek a stay of execution to stop or delay the eviction during the appeal.

If the landlord wins, the court issues a ​Judgment of Possession​, giving the landlord possession. The landlord gets a ​Writ of Execution​ from the court clerk and takes it to the sheriff. The sheriff then serves the tenant with a notice to vacate the property within five days. If the tenant doesn't do so, the sheriff will remove the tenant from the rental unit and lock her out by changing the locks.

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