Counsel, Advocacy & Representation for California Tenants

Just Cause Eviction

Summary of Just Cause Requirements

California Civil Code Section 1946.2 requires that landlords have “just cause” to terminate or evict certain long-term tenants. This statute rohibits an owner of residential real property (with certain exceptions) from terminating a tenancy without “just cause,” when the tenant has continuously and lawfully occupied the property for 12 months or longer.

The Statute explains that property owners may still terminate for causes related to lease violations, or unlawful uses. If you a tenant is unable to pay rent, or subleases in violation of a lease contract, or does substantial damage to a rental property, then the Just Cause Requirements do not protect her from being terminated with a three day notice.

However, if the reason for the landlord issuing a notice to terminate is not related to a breach of contract or failure to pay rent, then the landlord will have to comply with the Just Cause requirements.

There are only a limited number of acceptable reasons to terminate under the statute. These are limited to the property being removed from the rental market, the property owner is going to demolish the property, or the owner, or an immediate relative intends to move into the property (Civil Code §1946.2(2)).

The cause for termination must be stated in a written notice to terminate. That notice must give the tenant at least 60 days to vacate and be lawfully served.

Before making any decisions about whether a notice to terminate is valid under California law, it is important that tenants received competent legal counsel and advice. The Just Cause requirements, as well as what constitutes legal service, are technical and there is a lot of ways tenants can push back against attempts to terminate.


Exemptions

Certain residential tenancies, and all commercial tenancies, are exempt from the eviction controls. Residential exemptions are listed in California Civil Code section 1946.2, subdivisions (e) and (g), which also refers to other California statutes to define certain terms.

  • Transient and tourist hotel occupancy as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 1940.
  • Housing accommodations in a nonprofit hospital, religious facility, extended care facility, licensed residential care facility for the elderly, or incapacitated adults.
  • Dormitories owned and operated by an institution of higher education or a kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, school.
  • Housing accommodations in which the tenant shares bathroom or kitchen facilities with the owner who maintains their principal residence at the residential real property.
  • Single-family owner-occupied residences, including a residence in which the owner-occupant rents or leases no more than two units or bedrooms, including, but not limited to, an accessory dwelling unit or a junior accessory dwelling unit.
  • A duplex in which the owner occupied one of the units as the owner’s principal place of residence at the beginning of the tenancy, so long as the owner continues in occupancy.
  • Housing that has been issued a certificate of occupancy within the previous 15 years.
  • Most categories of subsidized affordable housing

To summarize, the protections do not apply to newer buildings that have been built within the last 15 years, shared houses where the owner still resides and rents no more than two of the bedrooms, or separate apartments, when the property is a duplex or there is a separate detached legally permitted dwelling on the same parcel, dorms, hospitals, and hotels, and subsidized affordable housing.

The exceptions to the rules also apply to certain kinds of owners.  If the residence is separate from the title to any other dwelling unit (meaning a single family residence) the landlord will not have to supply a just cause to evict if both of the following apply:

The owner is not any of the following:

(i) A real estate investment trust, as defined in Section 856 of the Internal Revenue Code.

(ii) A corporation.

(iii) A limited liability company in which at least one member is a corporation.

Most multifamily apartment buildings will be bound by the Just Cause requirements


Landlord Duties to Disclose

Owners of residential rentals who believe they are exempt from the just cause and rent control requirements created by Civil Code §1946.2 must provide written notice to their tenant explaining how they are protected against unjust eviction and excessive rent increases. In at least 12 point font the notice must state the following:

California law limits the amount your rent can be increased. See Section 1947.12 of the Civil Code for more information. California law also provides that after all of the tenants have continuously and lawfully occupied the property for 12 months or more or at least one of the tenants has continuously and lawfully occupied the property for 24 months or more, a landlord must provide a statement of cause in any notice to terminate a tenancy. See Section 1946.2 of the Civil Code for more information (Civil Code § 1946.2(f)(3)).

For any tenancy that was initiated or renewed after July 1, 2020, the lease agreement must explain whether the rental property is exempt from the just cause requirements.

For those tenancies already existing prior to July 1, 2020, if the landlord claims to be exempt from the just cause requirement, he must have given written notice to the tenant , or entered into an addendum to the lease or rental agreement, explaining this assertion no later than August 1, 2020

If the landlord or property management never provided an addendum to the lease, or rental agreement, nor in a written notice signed by the tenant, then that landlord will not be able to lawfully terminate the tenancy without just cause, even if he or she may have been otherwise exempt from the Just Cause requirements.

Get legal counsel to resolve uncertainties

Even if you believe that the rental property you live in may not be covered by the law, it is a good idea to speak with an attorney before you jump to any conclusions, or simply accept that your landlord can force you to move for any reason whatsoever.

The expense of getting reliable counsel and advice from a lawyer specializing in landlord/tenant law is very small compared to the cost of moving, or potentially having to face a fight in court unprepared.

The just cause requirements that will now be in place could represent a life changing opportunity for California tenants that are correctly educated on the law and who aren’t afraid to assert their rights. Now is the time for California tenants to stand up and speak up.

I encourage you to use the link below to set up a consultation with an attorney dedicated to defending tenants’ rights.


Contact Us

If you are still uncertain whether you need an attorney to defend against a threatened 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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.