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Non-Paying Tenants and Landlord Rights — California

Can you get a non-paying tenant out of your property without a lawsuit in California?

For many California landlords, this is an eternal important question. The answer is, yes and no. Obviously, you’d like to resolve the issue without getting involved in messy court actions. But what can you do to help this along? Here at the southern California Law Office at Eric J. Proos, we suggest that you have all of your legal ducks in a row to start. However, the process can be complex, so let’s take a look at your options under California law.

Amicable Solutions

“Amicable” is hardly a term that comes to mind when you think of landlord/tenant disputes over rent. But at least you can try a few things to keep it from going full out legal. Let’s face it, settling things out of court is usually best for everyone concerned, particularly for the wallet. Here’s a few basic steps you might consider to avoid formal legal action.

  • Take Stock of the Situation

Consider the tenant’s rental history. Is this the first time they missed a rent payment? Are they a chronically late? Are they several months behind? It makes a difference. Most occasional late rent payments can typically be resolved with a written notice and deadline for payment. If the lease agreement allows it, a late fee can be charged or waived, depending upon the prompt reaction of the renter.

  • Call or Visit the Renter

Make it personal. Sometimes this works better than threats. Often a call or visit can work where threats of late fees, etc. only make thing worse. You might also discover a special circumstance causing the delinquency, and an agreeable solution can be hammered out that works for everyone.

  • Pay or Quit Notice

Moving along to more forceful means, try a Pay or Quit Notice. In most states, including California, you can serve the delinquent tenant such notice that gives them as little as 3 days to pay,  quit, or face eviction. Generally the notice is reserved for chronic delinquent renters and  time allowed is determined by the landlord. Check with each locale as to whether the delivery of the notice should be mailed or hand delivered. This legal and formal notice also serves as an accurate documentation of the rent dispute and shows you have followed proper protocol in attempting to resolve the rent non-payment issue.

  • Pay the Tenant to Move Out

While this may raise the hackles of many landlords, there are times from a purely financial standpoint when a reasonable ‘carrot’(ie, cash) may be worth paying to get rid of a delinquent non-paying tenant.

Eviction as a Last Resort

If all else fails, you may be dealing with something else entirely. But if you’re thinking about turning off utilities or changing locks, don’t do it. It’s illegal and a tenant can counter sue you in court. Eviction rules vary by jurisdiction, so the process should be monitored by an attorney. You can safely expect counter charges against you as a landlord in which case…

Call Us!

The Law Office of Eric J. Proos is ready to answer questions regarding rent payment issues for clients living in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Westwood and surrounding CA communities. (213) 784-3640.

All information provided in this article is for educational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Each situation is dependent on the specific facts and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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