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What is an Unlawful Detainer?

0 Comment Category: Real Estate

It’s an unfortunate fact that nearly all property owners or managers will have to deal with the eviction process at some point in their career, and one potential roadblock during this process is an unlawful detainer case. An unlawful detainer is a term that can refer to a number of situations, including tenants remaining in a property after a lease expiration, people inhabiting a place without a lease (also known as squatting), or tenants remaining in a property after a breach of lease of some type. These situations are managed differently state-by-state, and a California real estate lawyer can help you understand your rights and your options when faced with an unlawful detainer.

In What Situations Can I Engage in an Unlawful Detainer Action?

The most common unlawful detainer cases are due to a tenant refusing to leave a property despite no longer abiding by the agreements made in the lease, or the relationship between tenant and landlord concludes for any other reason. This includes a wide variety of situations, such as:


  • The lease ends but the tenant remains at the property
  • The tenant does not move out despite receiving a 30, 60, or 90-day notice that their month-to-month lease is ending.
  • The tenant has broken some aspect of the lease agreement and refuses to abide by the ruling on how to fix the violation defined in the lease agreement.
  • The tenant is no longer paying the agreed upon rent and remains on the property.


Unlawful detainer also applies to other situations involving the conclusion of a legal relationship between two people such as employer and employee or in a situation where a property owner remains on property that they have sold. Unlawful detainer cases generally do not take an extended period of time, as the defendant is usually limited to five court days to file a response. 

How is an Unlawful Detainer Action Limited?

An unlawful detainer can be incredibly helpful for a property owner but there are limits to what this type of action can do. Unlawful detainers cannot include cross complaints, and cannot provide compensation for damages due to lost rent. They also cannot be used in disputes regarding security deposits or other damages. Looking for counsel for an unlawful detainer situation or other legal real estate conflict? Contact Davidovich Stein Law Group to speak with us and discuss your options. Our team has extensive experience in dealing with landlord – tenant conflict, with over 500 evictions prosecuted.

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