What responses might a tenant give to an unlawful detainer?

Landlords in Bakersfield and throughout California are often painted as the villain when they are well within their rights to remove a tenant from a property. This is an ingrained notion within society that the landlord who seeks an eviction is simply greedy and wants to treat a vulnerable tenant unfairly. This is not the case. The reality is that a landlord has numerous justifications to remove a tenant from a property. What is key to one of these cases is when there is an unlawful detainer filing and the tenant issues a response.

When the tenant has been issued the unlawful detainer, there will be a limit of five days to give a response. A legal document must be filed within those five days and it must be in the Clerk of Court where the unlawful detainer was filed by the landlord. If the fifth day happens to fall on a holiday or a weekend, then the following Monday or workday will be sufficient.

The tenant might have a legal defense to the unlawful detainer. The defense will be provided in the filing provided to the Clerk of Court. If this is not done within the five days, then any defense will be useless due to the failure to adhere to the time restrictions. There are several common defenses that a tenant will use. They include the landlord giving a three-day notice that asked for more rent than was actually due; there was a violation in the implied warrant of habitability in the rental unit; or the landlord was only filing the eviction to retaliate for the tenant exercising a right or after there was a complaint filed.

There are other ways the tenant can combat an unlawful detainer. If, for example, the complaint was not served properly or there was a technical error in the complaint, then the legal response can be used instead of an answer. Failing to respond in the five-day window will result in a default judgment in the landlord's favor with the landlord being granted a writ of possession and possibly unpaid rent, damages and court costs.

Landlords who are trying to evict a tenant have the right to do so if the circumstances call for it. However, understanding the legal process is essential. Speaking to an attorney who is experienced in the details of eviction can help.

Source: dca.ca.gov, "The Eviction Process -- How to respond to an unlawful detainer lawsuit," accessed on May 9, 2017

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