Real Estate Law
Understanding Just Cause and Relocation Assistance
An unlawful detainer is the process by which a commercial or residential landlord evicts a tenant for failure to pay rent, or failure to comply with a covenant in the lease. Real Estate Law Corporation’s eviction attorneys regularly represents commercial and residential landlords in eviction cases in the greater Sacramento region. Our firm represents clients that have one tenant, to clients that have thousands of tenants, including large real estate investment companies and large nationwide property management companies. This area of the law, like others, requires extreme attention to detail to make sure that all procedural requirements are met. Further, the rules that are applicable to a particular client’s situation can differ based on local city and county ordinances.
Unlawful Detainer Laws in California
California landlords are required to follow very strict procedures to evict a tenant. The first step before the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit (“unlawful detainer”) is to terminate the tenancy with a written notice. The type of written notice that the tenant must receive depends on the reason the landlord is terminating the tenancy. To make matters complex, California’s Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (“Tenant Protection Act”) gives tenants who have lived in a rental for at least 12 months additional protections. To make matters even complex, local counties and cities can adopt its own local tenant protection ordinances that cannot be less restrictive than the Tenant Protection Act but can be more restrictive. The rules can virtually be different for two neighboring cities.
Statewide Rent Control in California
California’s Tenant Protection Act implemented statewide rent and eviction control laws which affect most residential tenancies in California. The Tenant Protection Act puts a cap on rent increases statewide for qualifying units at 5.00% plus inflation, or 10% of the lowest gross rental rate charged at any time during the 12 months prior to the increase-whichever is lower. Additionally, landlords can raise rent only once over any 12 month period. As noted above, California also allows cities and counties to enact local rent control laws. Further, local rent control laws might apply to rental properties that the Tenant Protection Act does not cover.
When does the Tenant Protection Act apply?
The application of the Tenant Protection Act is very complex, but, generally speaking, it requires that landlords have “just cause” to evict a tenant who has lived in a rental for twelve months or longer. The reason can be because the tenant is “at-fault,” meaning the landlord is ending the tenancy because of the tenant’s actions (or inaction), or it can be “no-fault,” meaning the landlord has a reason independent of the tenant’s behavior (such as wanting to personally move into the rental) for ending the tenancy. The Tenant Protection Act applies to tenants that have month-to-month leases as well as longer term leases.
At Fault Just Cause
A landlord can terminate a tenancy and evict the tenant for a number of reasons, including failure to pay rent, violating the lease or rental agreement, or committing an illegal act. The landlord must terminate the tenancy by giving the tenant a proper written notice. The type of notice required will depend on the reason for the termination.
Nonpayment of rent.
When a tenant doesn’t pay rent when it is due, the landlord can give the tenant a three-day notice to pay rent or quit. This notice notifies the tenant that the tenant has three days to pay rent in full or move out. If the tenant moves out before the three-day deadline but fails to pay all rent that is due, the landlord can sue the tenant unpaid rents. If the tenant fails to pay rent and also fails to move out, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit at after expiration of the three days. (Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 1161(2) (2022).)
Curable Lease Violation
If a tenant violates the lease in a manner that can be cured (fixed), the landlord can give the tenant a “Three-Day Notice to Perform Covenant or Quit”. An example of this type of a situation is if a lease prohibits pets but the tenant has pets in the unit in violation of the lease. The notice notifies the tenant that the tenant has three days to correct the violation or move out. If the tenant moves out within the three days, the landlord cannot pursue an eviction but can sue the tenant for unpaid rents. On the other hand, if by the time the three day notice expires the tenant has not cured the lease violation and has not moved out, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. (Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 1161(3) (2022).)
Non-Curable Lease Violation
If a tenant commits a serious lease violation or does something that cannot be corrected (non-curable violation), the landlord can give the tenant an unconditional three-day notice to quit. The notice notifies the tenant that the tenant must move out of the rental unit within three days of receiving the notice. The tenant is not allotted any time to fix the violation. If tenant fails to move out within three days, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit. The following are examples of circumstances under which a California landlord can serve a three-day unconditional quit notices:
- The tenant assigned or sublet the rental unit in violation of the lease;
- The tenant caused substantial damage to the property;
- The tenant permitted or created a nuisance at the rental unit, or
- The tenant has been involved in illegal activity on the rental premises.
(Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 1161(4) (2022).)
With a month to month tenancy, in which the tenant has lived in the rental unit for less than twleve months, a landlord must give the tenant a written 30-day notice to end the tenancy. The landlord is not required to provide a reason for the termination but must not be terminating the tenancy for any discriminatory reason. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1946.1 (2022).)
If the tenant has lived in the rental unit for over twelve months and is month-to-month, the landlord must give the tenant a written 60-day notice to end the tenancy. (Cal. Civ. Code § 1946.1 (2022).) However, to make matters more complex, local tenant ordinances must be taken into account and may change the notices requirements noted above. For example, the City of Sacramento has enacted its own tenant protection act (codified as Chapter 5.156 of the Sacramento Municipal Code), which requires a 120 day notice to end a tenancy if the tenant has lived in the unit for over twelve months
For fixed term tenancies, the landlord cannot terminate the tenancy without cause until the end of the lease term. The landlord doesn’t need to give the tenant notice to move out at the end of the term unless the lease specifically requires it.
Relocation Assistance Requirements
When the termination of a tenancy is based on a no-fault just cause, the renter is entitled to relocation assistance in one of two ways, a relocation assistance payment or relocation assistance in the form of a rent waiver. The landlord can decide in which manner to compensate the tenant. The relocation fee must be equal to one month of the renter’s rent in effect as of the date that the notice of termination of tenancy was issued. The relocation fee must be paid to the renter within 15 calendar days of the service of notice of termination of tenancy. The rent waiver must be equal to one month of the renter’s rent in effect as of the date that the notice of termination of tenancy was issued. A written waiver of the payment of the last month’s rent must be provided to the renter prior to the rent due date.
Sacramento Eviction Attorney
If you require legal support for eviction cases in Sacramento, the Real Estate Law Corporation offers the services of highly skilled attorneys. Our team specializes in assisting landlords and property owners with eviction matters. Whether you need assistance with filing an eviction notice, navigating the eviction process, or representing your interests in court, our experienced attorneys are here to help.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our Sacramento eviction attorneys, please contact us at (916) 848-0080 or fill out the form below. We are dedicated to providing professional and reliable legal assistance for eviction cases in Sacramento and surrounding areas.