Your Eviction: What Happens After You’ve Been Served with an Unlawful Detainer?

In order to evict a tenant, the landlord must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in Superior Court. The legal papers notifying you of the lawsuit should be served in the three ways I discussed in my post “Your Eviction: Have You Been Properly Served?”

In a lawsuit, the landlord is the “Plaintiff.” You are the “Defendant.” The papers describing the charges against you are called a “Complaint.” Your written response is called an “Answer.”

The Deadline

You usually have only five calendar days to file an answer to an unlawful detainer lawsuit. The exception is if the fifth day occurs on a weekend or holiday, and then you must file your response on the following Monday or non-holiday.

Having only five calendar days to respond is a very short deadline. You should act immediately. You may want to call an attorney who has extensively experience advocating for tenants and tenant’s rights.

Responding to the Deadline

To respond, you must file your answer with the Clerk of the Court in the county in which the lawsuit was filed.  Your legal defense[s] should be included in the written answer. Otherwise, you will lose your ability to refute the landlord’s charges.

Since an answer is a legal document, it can be difficult to create one quickly. Furthermore, the court has specific rules on how it should look like and what the wording should be. Remember, your landlord may have experience in unlawful detainer actions or may have hired an attorney who has experience in this matter. You may want to consult an attorney who has experience fighting tenant evictions to help you with this important matter.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Real Estate Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

Mary Catherine Wiederhold
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