Counsel, Advocacy & Representation for California Tenants

Tenant Defenders - San Diego's Elite Unlawful Detainer Defense Attorneys

Unlawful Detainers (Evictions) are Highly Technical Civil Lawsuits

  • Rules of Evidence will apply.

  • Default will enter against tenants that don’t show up.

  • Your landlord will most likely have an attorney.

  • The Court will not appoint you an attorney.

  • Money judgments are entered if you lose.

Unlawful Detainer cases are not criminal matters, but have serious repercussions

Unlawful Detainer evictions are not misdemeanor criminal case.  In California, unlawful detainer actions are civil matters.  This may sound reassuring, but there are several reasons they must be defended just as seriously.

Many people are under the mistaken impression that an eviction is kind of like a misdemeanor criminal charge.  It is not.  In California, unlawful detainer actions are civil matters.  This may sound reassuring, but there are several reasons they must be defended just as seriously.

  • First of all, there is no right to appointed counsel.  The court will not assign you an attorney.  You are free to represent yourself, but it is not a good idea.
  • Secondly, the landlord does not have to prove very much in order to win.  The standard of evidence is more probable than not.  The court does not require that the plaintiff prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt.  Click here for more information on what a landlord must prove in order to win.
  • Lastly, there is no double jeopardy.  This means that even if you win your case, the landlord can still come back to court again, and take another shot.  If you lose your case, you can appeal the decision, but an appeal alone will not stop the sheriff from locking you out. 

There are very few exceptions to this rule.  Even if the court does grant a stay of execution to delay the lockout, it will almost always require the tenant to pay an expensive bond worth many months of rent payments. 

Losing a case at trial will usually result in a money judgment that will allow your landlord to garnish wages, or lien bank accounts. Your eviction can become a public record that can stop you from renting easily in the future, and damage your credit.

Unlawful Detainer Cases are not Small Claims – Landlords have Lawyers

The parties to unlawful detainer lawsuits can be represented by attorneys. 

San Diego is the sixth largest metropolitan area in the United States, and unlawful detainer cases account for a large percentage of the cases filed in court.  For this reason, there are many lawyers that work for landlords filing evictions.   Landlords and property management companies almost always have lawyers.

Some of these firms have literally dozens of attorneys, and because there are so many landlord attorneys, bringing a case to evict a tenant is surprisingly cheap for a landlord.

The reason landlord attorneys have lots of work to share among them is because landlords generally understand the critical difference having a lawyer will make.

Discovery is available

Discovery requests allow parties to a lawsuit to find out what evidence the other side has before you get to trial. Most civil cases involve multiple discovery requests from both the plaintiff and defendant. These requests can be very detailed and time consuming, but they are an essential feature of almost every kind of litigated case.

The good news is that as a defendant in an unlawful detainer, you can also submit discovery requests to the plaintiff.


The bad news is that drafting the discovery requests can be technically demanding, and you can quickly be frustrated if you make mistakes, or if you take too much time in preparing them.

Tenants who want to use discovery, but don’t have an attorney are often disappointed. If your requests are not made within the appropriate time frame, then your right to discover the plaintiff’s evidence will vanish.

Rules of evidence apply.

The tenant’s side of the story is often times never really explained to the court because defendants without an attorney do not know how to overcome the objections of the landlord’s lawyer.

Trial can be a painful process to endure when you know you have a smoking gun document, or a witness who will help you carry the day, only to have the door shut in your face because you can’t get past an objection. 

Your day in court will not be a “Judge Judy” kind of trial. Once you are before the judge, the fight is on, and tenants without lawyers often learn they are outgunned.


Unlawful Detainers are Summary Proceedings and Move Quickly

Eviction cases typically take less than six weeks from the time the landlord files a complaint to the time that trial is concluded – assuming a tenant asserts an effective defense.  If the landlord has an efficient attorney, or the tenant doesn’t get a lawyer, then the case can move even faster.  Tenants have important substantive rights, which means the law protects them from certain kinds of wrongful conduct, but these rights will matter little if the procedure is poorly understood.

Landlord attorneys rely upon the advantages the summary proceedings confers on plaintiffs to frustrate tenants from even asserting an effective defense.

It’s kind of like the difference between chess and speed chess.  You may be a great chess player, but when the clock is ticking and you need to make a move in less than 5 seconds, it is a different game altogether. Even attorneys experienced in other areas of law are often inept at defending against eviction.

Find a lawyer who specializes in representing tenants

We are able to help you with problems with the landlord, or property manager no matter what stage of the conflict.  Whether you are just having a dispute that has not resulted in any court action, or find yourself in need of an eviction defense.

Many tenants facing eviction fear they won’t be able to afford an attorney to assist them. It may sound surprising, but it is almost always more costly in the long run to defend yourself.

Once you have been served with an unlawful detainer summons and complaint, you are going to have to make some critical decisions about your eviction defense within a matter of days. It is not a good idea to postpone your decision about speaking with an attorney.

If you miss the deadline for filing a response to the lawsuit, your rights to defend your case can be cut off. Even if you get help filing the answer, or feel confident that you can manage it on your own, many tenants make critical mistakes that they cannot correct later.


This information is provided to help you understand the eviction process before you make any decision about whether to hire a lawyer, and to help you decide which lawyer will best suit your needs. It is not a substitute to getting competent legal counsel.

Our office is located in San Diego, but we offer consultations throughout California.

At the very least, you should speak with an attorney to help you understand what you are facing. Don’t make the mistake of assuming too much.

Legal assistance for tenants is available.  If you need immediate help with eviction defense, don’t hesitate to call us by calling 619-573-9582.  


Set an appointment to speak with a lawyer directly by using the link below. 

Tenant Defenders

Why we want your trust

  • Tenant Defenders is committed to offering the highest quality  eviction defense legal services at an affordable price. 
  • You will receive personal attention from a licensed attorney.
  • We cannot offer our services for free, but we will work with qualified candidates on payment plans, and sliding rates.
  • You will receive an honest assessment of your chances at trial, and a plan of action suited to your objectives.
  • We will not exact a pound of flesh one spoonful at a time.  Our pricing is straightforward.  Many times we can offer a flat rate.  No hidden additional costs or fees.
  • You control the outcome.  We will not force you to accept a settlement that you are unhappy with.

Contact Us

If you are still uncertain whether you need an attorney to defend against eviction, then call us today to discuss your case, or fill out the form below in order to explain how we can help, and we will reply to you.

How Can We Help You?

Get Representation

If you have a situation that is more than a question, and are already having a dispute with your landlord, then information alone is often not enough to settle the matter to your advantage. What most renters need, but seldom have, is an attorney who knows the law, and the landlord’s duties under the law, and is not afraid to advocate for tenants.

Even the most informed tenants can find the court system overwhelming.  Defending against eviction on your own is more than just challenging.  Fort the unprepared and unrepresented it is an ordeal filled with traps.  Tenants who go to court without an attorney frequently enter into bad agreements and suffer humiliation at the hands of the landlord’s lawyers. Having an experienced attorney on your side will make a difference.

Get Informed

If your situation is not a lawsuit in court, but rather a question, or a curiosity about what the law says, there are many places where you can find educational materials, and  every tenant should become familiar with the legal protections for tenants in California law.

Many times the answer to tenants’ legal questions are more complicated than they may first appear.  It’s important to be careful, and not to rely upon every piece of information posted online, or simply accept the advice of friends and neighbors.  Make sure the source of your legal advice is reliable and up to date.

Look around the website and see if we have information to help you.  If you have a question and you can’t find an answer,  click here to send us a comment.  An attorney that specializes in advocating for tenants will reply, and can direct you to the resources you need. 

Don't go to Trial unprepared

Written notices demanding the payment of rent, notices that threaten the termination of your lease, accusations of illegal activity, and notices of changes in terms and conditions of a lease from a landlord or property manager are often the prelude to legal action.  They must be taken seriously.  It is critical for tenants to respond to notice from a landlord intelligently and prudently.

Before you agree to excessive rent increases, or allow the oppressive actions of the owner or management intimidate you, meet with a professional.

Information, early in time, is the key to success.  Often times becoming informed can help you to avoid being on defense.  If you are not able to avoid litigation, then consult with an attorney who stands with tenants and defends their rights.

Don't Waste Time

When a tenant has a legal conflict with the landlord, there is often only a short period of time to act.  Under California law, landlords are usually required to give notice to tenants before they resort to legal action. However, most of these legally required notices give a tenant only three days to act.  When a tenant fails to act within the three days then the landlord can proceed to court.

Once an action to evict (also called unlawful detainer) is filed against a tenant in court, it can move very quickly.   Landlords enjoy a unique legal procedure, which is known as a summary proceeding.   Once a tenant is sued in court, and then served with an unlawful detainer summons, then he or she has only five days to respond.

If your landlord has sued you or is threatening to sue you, then you must act quickly. Hesitation and uncertainty can lead to a loss of money, loss of security and the loss of your home. Don’t wait.  Schedule an appointment for a consultation  immediately to discuss your case.