Eviction: Tenant Moved Out Without Notifying Landlord

In some situations, a landlord may realize that a tenant appears to have moved out of a property without notice, either in the middle of an eviction case, or just any time, even if the landlord has not started or considered starting an eviction case. The landlord must be careful to make sure the tenant has in fact really moved out, and depending on the situation, the landlord may need to take a number of steps.

If the tenant seems to have moved out after the eviction case was already filed in court

If the landlord has already filed the unlawful detainer papers at court, and the tenant moves out before the trial, the landlord has 2 choices:

  1. Dismiss the case, or
  2. Ask the court to convert the case to a regular civil case for damages to collect back rent in the amount requested in the unlawful detainer complaint.

To request a dismissal of the case, file a Request for Dismissal (Form CIV-110).

If the landlord does not dismiss the case or ask that it be changed to a regular civil case for damages, the tenant may go to the trial and ask the court to dismiss the case because he or she has already moved out. If the tenant wins, he or she may get an award of costs for having to come to court for the trial when the case should have been converted to a regular civil case or dismissed.

If the tenant seems to have moved out and the landlord has not filed an eviction case in court

If rent is 14 or more consecutive days overdue and the landlord has good reason to believe that the tenant has moved out without letting the landlord know, this is called “abandonment.”

If this happens, the landlord can send the tenant a Notice of Belief of Abandonment that includes the name of the tenant and the address of the rental unit. It must also say that this is a “Notice of Belief of Abandonment” and say what date the landlord is ending the lease or rental agreement. The date must be at least 15 days after the landlord serves the notice in person, or 18 days after he or she serves the notice by mail. The landlord must also sign and date the notice. Click to see a sample of this Notice.

The tenant has 15 days if served in person, or 18 days if served by mail, to send the landlord a response telling the landlord that he or she has not abandoned the premises, or to pay the landlord all or part of the rent that is owed.

If the tenant does not answer the notice, the landlord can move the tenant’s belongings out and rent the place to someone else without having to file an unlawful detainer case.

BUT the landlord must be very careful because if the rent was not overdue for 14 days, or he or she did not wait long enough for the tenant to answer, or he or she had no good reason to think that the tenant moved out, the tenant could sue the landlord for “wrongful eviction.”