What is an unlawful detainer?

If you have received an unlawful detainer summons, then your landlord has sued to evict you.

unlawful detainer complaint must be served in person

Responding to the Summons

In California, an eviction can only take place through the court with an action called an unlawful detainer.  It begins when you get a copy of the lawsuit, or complaint, and attached to it will be a legal document called a summons. The summons is the court’s invitation to come and defend your case.  Once you receive the summons and complaint, you have a short period of time to respond.

Take immediate action when you receive legal documents from your landlord.

You are only granted 5 days to file an answer in court from the date that the summons is given to you, or to an adult member of your household.  These 5 days include the days of the weekend.  If you are served on Wednesday, the landlord can ask for a default on the following Tuesday because your last day to submit you answer will be Monday.

If you have already received a summons for unlawful detainer, then don’t delay.  Click on the button below to schedule an appointment for a consultation and answer preparation with an attorney.



If you don’t file an answer within 5 days, then the plaintiff can ask the court to enter a default against you.  Once the court grants a default, then you will lose your opportunity to defend your case.  If a tenant files the answer before the plaintiff requests a default, then the case will move forward on a fast track to trial.  The plaintiff will request a trial, and the court will grant a trial date within three weeks.

Many tenants are evicted wrongly and very quickly because they take too long to respond to the situation.

In California, renters have significant rights to protect their homes, but your rights are only useful if you are prepared to assert them quickly .  Self-education about renters’ rights is important, but once you have been served with an unlawful detainer summons, there is no substitute for aggressive advocacy from a legal professional.

If you are not sure whether you have a legal defense, it is important to speak with an attorney to learn about your rights. Having a lawyer to assist you from the outset will provide you with the greatest chance of a successful outcome. Even if you are not certain you need to set an appointment just yet, it can’t hurt to reach out for help. Please feel free to send any information concerning your case to us by clicking on the button below, and we will do our best to get back to you promptly.

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