What happens at an unlawful detainer (eviction) trial?

The process of evicting a tenant is called an unlawful detainer. The Legislature enacted special statutes which make unlawful detainer actions different from other court cases. The statutes provide for a trial within a short period of time and limit the issues that can be raised at the trial. The steps to an unlawful detainer jury trial include: a Notice of Termination to the tenant, filing and service of the unlawful detainer complaint, the tenant’s answer (legal response) and request for jury demand, payment of first day jury fee deposit, and the landlord’s request for trial. Under the statute, a trial must occur no later than the 20th day after the landlord has filed her request.

At the trial, the landlord will put on her case. The landlord will talk about the Notice of Termination that was sent to the tenant and her reasons for wanting to evict the tenant. The landlord may present other witnesses to support her claims against the tenant. After the landlord finishes with her case, the tenant presents his defenses. For example, in a case based on a tenant allegedly being a nuisance, the tenant might try to present evidence that his actions do not constitute a nuisance or that his actions are protected by the law. For example, the challenged activity of the tenant might be the result of a disability, and the landlord should be required to make reasonable accommodation for the disability. When both sides have concluded presenting their evidence, both parties will make closing arguments to the jury, and the judge will instruct the jury on the law. The jury will then deliberate and render a verdict.

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