Special Announcement

Posted Friday, October 2, 2020

Tenants: Landlord Gives You Written Notice (Step 1 of 6)

”One Two - Served With Complaint Three - Decide to Respond Four - File Response Five - Trial Six - After Judgment

For a landlord to evict you legally, he or she has to first give you a notice to move out or give you a chance to fix the problem (like paying the rent). If you do not do what the notice asks before the time in the notice runs out, the landlord then can file an unlawful detainer case.

Notices are very difficult, and it is not easy to explain what kind of notice a landlord has to give in each case.  If you think your landlord gave you the wrong notice or made a mistake on the notice, talk to a lawyer because it may help you with your case. Notices are not court forms, but many notice forms are available at stores that carry business or legal forms. Sometimes the forms do not comply with California law, so make sure that the notice has all the legal requirements, because if it does not, you may have a defense to the eviction case.

Keep in mind that in some cases, a landlord can give a tenant more than 1 notice at the same time.  Treat all the notices you may receive as valid.

There are different types of notices, used for different reasons and with different requirements. Look at your notice to find out what type of notice you received.


The landlord has to serve the notice on you and other tenants properly. The landlord can do it himself or herself, or he or she can ask a friend to do it. The landlord can also hire a process server. The person who serves the notice must be at least 18 years old.

There are 3 ways for the landlord to serve you with the notice:

  • Personal service: The landlord or someone else gives the notice directly to you, in person.
  • Substituted service: If you are not home or at work, the landlord can leave the notice with a competent member of the household where you live or someone in charge where you work AND then mail a second copy to you at the address where the papers were left.
  • Posting and mailing ("nail and mail") service: If there is no one home to leave the papers with, the landlord can tape or nail the notice to the front door or somewhere where it can be seen easily, AND send a copy by mail to you at the property.

A notice is almost always needed before filing an unlawful detainer case. But there are a few exceptions:

  • Fixed term leases: If you have a lease for a fixed period of time, and the lease is up and the landlord does not extend it, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case without giving notice first. But the landlord cannot take any rent after the lease runs out or he or she will be creating a new month-to-month tenancy.*
  • The landlord accepts your notice to end the lease: If you give the landlord notice that you will be moving out, but you do not, then the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case right away.
  • You work for the landlord and live on the property as part of the job: The landlord can file an unlawful detainer case without notice as soon as you do not work for the landlord anymore.

* In a rent-controlled area, the landlord may not be able to evict a tenant when the lease is up unless the landlord has a good reason ("just cause") to file an eviction case. The landlord will probably need a notice in that case. Contact your local city or county government office to find out if you live in a rent-controlled area. Or talk to your self-help center, or a lawyer for help.

In general, once a landlord gives you notice, you can:

  • Do what the notice asks within the time allowed,
  • Not do what the notice asks, or
  • Try to reach an agreement with the landlord.

If you do not do what the notice asks, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer case in court to evict you and collect back rent.  If you do what the notice requires (like pay the back rent in full), then the landlord cannot file an unlawful detainer case. If he or she does anyway, you can successfully defend yourself against it.

If the landlord does not wait until the notice period runs out to file the eviction case in court, you can ask the court to dismiss the case.

To count the days in the notice period:

  • The first day is the day after the notice is served.
  • Then count every day on the calendar. Do not count Saturdays, Sundays, or court holidays.
  • If the landlord does not serve the notice in person and has to mail a second copy, the notice is not considered served the day of mailing of the second copy. The next day, the notice period starts running.

For Tenants: The Eviction Process