Counsel, Advocacy & Representation for California Tenants

What Rights do I Have if I am Served with a Notice of Termination?

Your Rights as a Tenant are not Just Determined by the Law, but also by the Facts of Your Specific Circumstances

The law is an abstraction of reality, but it does not operate in a vacuum. What this means is that judges are not simply free to decide cases based upon what is fair, or even right.  Judges base their decisions upon statutes and cases that have been decided in the past.  They must also take into account the situations of the individual plaintiffs and defendants who appear before them, and this is often easier said than done. 

This is nowhere more true than in the cases of tenants facing eviction.  Most judges have not been tenants for a long time, if ever.  Many of them are landlords themselves.  The gap between judges and defendants defending their rights to stay in their homes can be very wide. 

Judges often lack personal understanding of the background experiences that shape the lives of tenants and struggle to empathize with them.

An effective attorney can help to close the gap between tenants and judges, and helping tenants advocate for their rights.

What judges do have (or should have) is respect for the nobility of the law.  They believe in principle that the rights of the people should be determined by an open and transparent process.  Being able to frame your specific situation within the context of due process and legally recognized precedents is critical if you want to convince a court.  This is also easier said than done.

Many tenants make the mistake of assuming that judges will apply the law in an evenhanded way and fair way when they are allowed to tell their story.  The difficulty is that in order to even tell your story, you have to be able to speak to the law first.  This is why it is so important to get legal counsel even if you do not want to go to court. 

Get Educated from a Professional Before You Act

Having an attorney help you to interpret the law the way a judge will likely do, and listen to the facts of your situation from your perspective should happen long before you have to worry about what to do in court. 

Do not postpone the initial opportunity to get perspective on how to respond to a notice to terminate.  The insight you gain will place you in a strong position to not only know your rights, but also to weigh the options you have available to assert them most effectively.

Rental agreements are contracts that establish a transactional relationship. When your landlord or property manager issues a notice to end that contract, that action has legal implications.

It might not appear significant, but it could easily develop into a case in court that ends up costing you many thousands of dollars and enormous stress.

When you sustain an injury to your body, it might not appear serious at first, but most people appreciate the importance of getting medical help. 

If you wait to see what will happen, then that small wound could easily become infected or lead to other complications.  The expense and difficulty of dealing with postponing your visit to the doctor can cost you dearly. 

Legal problems are not that different from medical issues.  Those who postpone getting professional help are taking unnecessary risks. 

Effective Advocacy Can Make the Difference

You probably don’t want to end up in court, and often times we can help tenants to avoid ever having to face a case to evict.  We can’t always avoid having to take the fight in front of a judge, but whenever it’s possible to stop landlords before they ever even begin a lawsuit, we will. 

Tenants that can articulate their legal positions to property management and landlords, or their attorneys, are more likely succeed in avoiding eviction.

By helping tenants assert their rights early and forcefully, we make landlords think carefully about pursuing eviction. Do not allow your landlord to suffer under the impression that is going to be cakewalk to kick you out.

The best way to be prepare for court, and at the same time do everything you can to prevent having to go in the first place, is to obtain the counsel and assistance of a lawyer with expertise fighting against abusive and unscrupulous landlords. 

If You Cannot Avoid Court, then don’t Go Without Representation

Tenants that go to court without an attorney representing them are at a serious disadvantage.  It is a mistake to assume that because California now requires just cause to evict, tenants can simply trust judges will rule in their favor. 

In order to make a judge come to a specific result on a legal question, you need to be able to argue what the law says, carefully develop the evidence the judge will consider, and then create a compelling logical connection between the two.  All of the while, the landlord’s attorney will be throwing up every roadblock she can.

Courts are a daunting and difficult place for tenants to receive a fair hearing even when the law is clear.  When courts are called upon to interpret lengthy and detailed statutes they look to lawyers for guidance.  

The just cause protections enacted by Civil Code §1946.2 are a great change in the law for California tenants.  They are not, however, crystal clear.  

Tenant defenders can put your case in the hands of experienced litigators who know how to make the law to work to tenants’ advantage. 

Your Rights Only Matter if You Stand up for Them

Whenever a tenant is served with any kind of notice to terminate his or her tenancy, it is very important to get competent legal counsel. A lawyer with experience representing tenants can help you to fully understand the legal significance of the notice, whether it would hold up in court, and what is likely to unfold.  Not every notice issued to tenant will result in a lawsuit. 

Nonetheless, in most cases landlords cannot simply run to court to evict a tenant unless they first give a written notice.  For this reason, the delivery of any notice to terminate should be viewed as a potential eviction.

The kind of notice a court will require to evict can vary widely depending upon the facts of the given case.  It isn’t only the law that matters. The facts of the tenant’s individual circumstance will determine how the law is applied.

Getting an attorney on your side early on will help you to craft a plan of action and give you the greatest likelihood of success in achieving your goals and stopping any eviction from taking place.

Now that California has added additional requirements in order for a legally valid notice to terminate, it has never been more important for tenants to not only know their rights, but also how to assert them.  It is not enough that the legislature has added a just cause requirement to terminate most residential tenancies. 

In order for the protections extended by the new eviction control regulations, tenants must act to assert their rights.  These protections are not going to be administered by any kind of government enforcement or regulatory agency. The meaning and scope of the protection tenants enjoy will be determined in court. 

Effective Legal Help is Cost Effective

In most every legal dispute, the party with the most prepared attorney will have the greatest advantage.  Tenants who think they cannot afford legal representation are often surprised to learn how much money effective legal advocacy can actually save them.

At the very least, tenants should always get legal consultation early on in any dispute with a landlord or property manager. 

We recommend that tenants set up a consultation as soon as they receive any notice of termination.   You may be surprised to learn all the ways we will make a difference. 

Waiting until the time that you are already in court may end up costing you more money and making a favorable resolution of your dispute all the more difficult. 


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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.

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.