Evicting a tenant via unlawful detainer: should you go it alone?

By Barbara Craig, Attorney at Law

Every landlord, no matter how well he treats a tenant, will eventually need to evict a tenant from his property. The most common reason to evict a tenant is for nonpayment of rent, and landlords lose a lot of money each and every month because of it. It’s enough to tempt some landlords to take matters into their own hands. But it’s critical to remember that tenants can only be removed from the property by a court order issued as the result of an unlawful detainer legal action.

Why doing it yourself can cost you more

evictions unlawful detainer actionsLandlords are often concerned with the financial impact of a non-paying tenant and the subsequent legal costs of an eviction case, and sometimes will attempt to remove a tenant without legal assistance. Unless a landlord is experienced with unlawful detainer cases, it is usually best to hire an experienced eviction attorney to handle the case.

There are many hurdles a landlord must overcome to succeed in legally evicting a tenant. Unlawful detainer cases are not complicated matters, but the legal process can be. Those that are not experienced with court procedures can unknowingly make significant mistakes which result in lost time and money. In many situations, avoidable delays and the expense of additional lost rent far exceed the cost of hiring an attorney.

The eviction process

The first step in the eviction process is serving an eviction notice. Nonpayment of rent is the most common reason to evict a tenant, and in these situations, the tenant must be served with a three-day notice to pay or quit. I have often reviewed landlord-prepared eviction notices in anticipation of filing an unlawful detainer action, only to discover that the notice is invalid (defective) or was served improperly. Eviction notices must meet very specific requirements as to the contents and how they are served. Defective notices can and often will lead to the unlawful detainer case being dismissed. This wastes a lot of time and in turn, a lot of money.

The unlawful detainer action

The unlawful detainer complaint also must be properly prepared as well. The unlawful detainer complaint is a standard form that can sometimes be found on the county court’s website with instructions. However, the instructions are very generic for the average case. Make a simple mistake on the complaint and your case will be dismissed. Even if the complaint can be amended to correct the mistake, the time wasted by these delays can cost the landlord another month or two of lost rent.

Unlawful detainer attorneys

These pitfalls and headaches can be avoided by seeking legal help from an experienced unlawful detainer attorney. Hiring an attorney has a cost, but mistakes made by inexperienced landlords can cost even more. Since an eviction case can take 30 days or more to get a court order, having an experienced lawyer on your team to help you avoid mistakes and delays can save you hundreds, if not thousands in lost rent.

Do you have questions about unlawful detainer notices, rental property evictions, or other landlord-tenant law concerns? Contact San Pedro Attorney Barbara Craig to schedule a free consultation. Serving clients in the South Bay area including San Pedro, Rancho Palos Verdes, Lomita, Harbor City, Torrance, Wilmington, and other nearby communities.