California Laws Concerning a Master Tenant Evicting a Subtenant

By Teo Spengler
If a subtenant ignores an eviction notice, the matter moves to municipal court.

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Under California law, all tenants are created equal. Both master tenants and subtenants enjoy the same protections. A master tenant who has sublet a room owes the same obligations to the subtenant that a landlord does to his tenants, including the duties set out in local rent control ordinances. It pays to know the rules before you begin an eviction because violating a tenant's rights can lead to civil litigation for wrongful eviction in California.

California Landlord-Tenant Law

California sets out its landlord-tenant laws in section 1940 through 1954.1 of the Civil Code. The laws and protection apply to "all persons who hire dwelling units located within this state including tenants, lessees, boarders, lodgers, and others, however denominated." Generally, the laws describe the basic services a landlord must provide in exchange for rent, and how and under what circumstances he can ask the tenant to leave the premises.

Types of Tenancies

Landlords -- including master tenants in a sublet situation -- must follow California rules when it comes to forcing a tenant to leave, and those rules depend upon what type of tenancy is involved. A tenancy can be either a periodic tenancy -- the period of the tenancy being the frequency with which a tenant is to pay rent -- or a lease contract. The most common type of periodic tenancy is a month-to-month tenancy, where the subtenant pays for one month at a time. Lease agreements specify the number of months or years that the subtenant is to occupy the premises.

Ending a Tenancy

Under state law, landlords can terminate a tenancy for any nondiscriminatory, reason, but local rent control laws often limit the landlord's power to evict to specific circumstances. Master tenants end a month-to-month tenancy by giving the subtenant written notice at least one month in advance of the departure date; this is termed "30-day notice." Master tenants generally end a lease contract at the end of the sublet lease term. The lease specifies whether the master tenant must give notice to the tenant that the lease will not be extended. If the subtenant refuses to move out when served with a proper notice, the master tenant goes to court to evict the subtenant.

Eviction for Contract Breach

A master tenant can evict a subtenant who fails to live up the terms of the agreement, like failing to pay rent or by unlawful or improper behavior. To evict a subtenant for contract breach, a master tenant serves the subtenant with a three-day notice to quit the premises. If the subtenant can correct the violation, she must do so within three days or else move out. If she refuses, the master tenant files an unlawful detainer proceeding in municipal court.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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