Wrongful Eviction and Wrongful Lock-Outs
While there are some cases where evicting a tenant is lawful, all too often, landlords will illegally evict tenants that cannot be evicted, or fail to follow the proper eviction procedures.
A landlord generally cannot outright evict you simply because you haven’t paid rent or because you may have violated the terms of the lease. In most instances, the landlord should give the tenant formal notice of any violations and must give the tenant a reasonable opportunity to correct the issue.
If the tenant does not resolve the issue, the landlord is not allowed to take measures in his or her own hands, such as removing the tenant’s belongings, changing the locks on the property, shutting off utilities, or informing the tenant that their lease is terminated and the tenant must move out.
Instead, the landlord must provide the tenant with a notice of termination or notice to quit. This notice generally has an expiration date. Once this notice expires, the landlord can then file an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit in the applicable court, and must give the tenant notice of the unlawful detainer lawsuit that has been filed against the tenant. The tenant has a certain period of time to respond to the complaint and appear in court before the court ultimately makes the decision as to whether the tenant can be evicted. Only then can the tenant actually be lawfully evicted.
A wrongful eviction may arise if the landlord does not go through the proper court proceedings of an unlawful detainer lawsuit to evict the tenant, or if the landlord threatens the health or safety of a tenant, unlawfully increases the tenants’ rent, intimidates the tenant, changes the locks or performs another act that interferes with the tenant’s right to occupy the property.
Another way that a landlord can wrongfully evict a tenant is by shutting off utilities to make it unbearable for the tenant to stay in the property. Under no circumstances can a landlord shut off utilities in order to cause the tenant to move out. Landlords can only shut off the utilities in order to make relevant repairs.
The landlord also cannot take action, or threaten to take action against you, in order to intimidate you to evict the property, such as threatening to call the immigration authorities or any other law enforcement agency in an attempt to remove you from the property.
Additionally, even if the landlord does go through the proper unlawful detainer court proceedings to try to evict you, depending on your circumstances, you may have a defense that prevents the landlord from evicting you. For example, if you are disabled, the property is uninhabitable, or your landlord has refused to fix problems, you may be protected from eviction. Additionally, if your building is protected by a rent control ordinance your landlord cannot evict you without good cause.
The eviction process in California is complex and many landlords don’t follow the proper eviction procedures for evicting their tenants. It is vital to hire an experienced attorney right away. The experienced attorneys at the Harouni Law Group can help you in these situations.
With the help of our attorneys, you can seek remediation of the issue and in many cases, receive financial compensation for the wrongful eviction.