You’ve tried and tried to reconcile your differences with your roommate, but the situation is just not getting any better. Recognizing this, you’ve asked them to leave and they refused. You’re left with no other choice; it’s time to exercise the nuclear option. Here’s what to do when you need to evict a roommate in California.
The Lease Matters
If you both signed the lease together and pay the landlord rent directly, the law considers you co-tenants. On the other hand, if you have a lease agreement with the landlord, but your roommate isn’t on it and makes rent payments to you, they are considered a sub-tenant. Co-tenants cannot evict one another. Your landlord must conduct the eviction.
If you're a landlord looking to learn more about evictions, take a read at our free tenant eviction guide.
A tenant can evict a sub-tenant—but only under the following circumstances.
- Failure to pay rent
- Violation of a provision of the sub-lease
- Materially damaging the rental property
- Substantially interfering with other tenants
- Committing domestic violence against another tenant
- Use of the rental property for unlawful purposes
- Commission of unlawful conduct involving weapons or ammunition
Additionally, if a sub-tenant has been there for less than a year, the tenant can serve them with a notice of termination, which gives them up to 30 days to vacate the property.
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The Landlord’s Role
The landlord has the right to evict anyone they choose, as long as there are just grounds for doing so. However, if you want to get your roommate to go in a co-tenant situation, you will have to convince your landlord to evict your roommate. If you can demonstrate they violated one or more of the above criteria, you may convince the landlord to go along with you. However, the property owner will have to go through the legal process just as you would to evict a subtenant.
The Legal Process
Written notice must be served upon your roommate to leave the premises within 30 to 60 days (30 in a month-to-month situation). This gives them time to get their act together. If they don’t, the process continues with the filing of an unlawful detainer complaint.
Once this is filed with the court, a summons to appear must be served upon them. They will then get five days to either oppose the complaint or move out.
A hearing is set if they oppose the complaint, during which a judge will hear both sides and issue a ruling. If the judge decrees your roommate must go, you can get the sheriff’s office to serve them with a five-day lockout notice. If they still don’t go, the sheriff’s deputies will remove them at the end of the five-day period.
Words of Advice
Avoid engaging in physical and verbal altercations. Keep written records documenting your complaints. Offer to pay your roommate to leave; it will likely be a lot less expensive in the long run. While you can put a lock on your bedroom door, you can’t change the locks on the apartment. Doing so will give them a case against you. Whatever you do when you need to evict a roommate, make sure you stay within the confines of the law in all of your dealings. This way, you’ll have the best chance of winning if you wind up in court.