Recently in Commercial Unlawful Detainer/Eviction Category

April 28, 2009

California Unlawful Detainer - Avoiding Delay Under a True Fast Track

San Diego commercial property landlords have a powerful tool when faced with the unfortunate necessity of evicting tenants. Properly utilized California eviction procedures can result in the speedy return of landlords' possession to their commercial property. Unlawful detainer actions may be brought for the purpose of evicting tenants that fail to pay rent or otherwise breach their lease terms. California unlawful detainer actions are summary proceedings designed to resolve issues of possession without the long delays typical of litigation. Service of the complaint on the tenant to resolution of the matter can be less than 30 days, although as a practical matter the process generally takes a little longer depending on how service was accomplished and what actions the tenant takes. Nonetheless, to a practicing litigation attorney outside of the summary proceeding context, the speed at which unlawful detainers proceed to trial in California is astounding. Important procedural timelines for the completion of discovery and noticing motions are condensed. In exchange, California unlawful detainer actions are confined primarily to issues of possession and secondarily to rent and/or holdover damages contingent on a valid claim of possession.  Understanding these limitations is critical to effective prosecution of unlawful detainer actions.

The leasing of commercial property is first and foremost a business, and the speed at which eviction procedures may be accomplished has a powerful effect on a business's bottom line.  To minimize possible delays, landlords should be cognizant of important procedural requirements and the necessity of a well-pled complaint.  There are strict requirements for the content of and service of a three day notice "to pay rent or quit" or "to cure breach or quit" (required statutory notice before an unlawful detainer action may be filed).  Because time is of the essence in most unlawful detainer actions, proper service and pleading is the best way to reduce the likelihood of delay.  Otherwise, defendant tenants may file a motion to quash for improper service or demur to the complaint and/or move to strike portions of the complaint that are not properly pled all of which delay the process.

Of course, this all presumes that the landlord's claims of failure to pay rent or breach of lease terms are valid.  If not, it may be that the tenants themselves desire a speedy resolution of the possession issues.  After all, commercial tenants are businesses themselves and their bottom line is affected by prolonged litigation and the uncertainty that comes with it.  Contact a business attorney to discuss your particular situation. 

A cursory but informative summary of California unlawful detainer procedures may be found at the Superior Court of California Self Service Center.