How to Stop Eviction
The million-dollar question… “How to stop eviction?” At any stage of the eviction process, a tenant can
attempt to stop eviction. However, the odds and circumstances are stacked against them. And, as this
article will uncover, there are extremely limited ways to “stop” eviction completely.
In the following, we will go over each method to stop eviction one by one.
- Comply with Landlord’s Notice to Stop Eviction
Obviously, when an eviction notice is served, an eviction can be stopped by complying with the
notice. This will avoid going any further with eviction proceedings, and this is by far the best way
to really stop eviction. Obviously, it may be impossible for a tenant to comply with a notice, for
example to a “3-Day notice to pay rent or quit,” if they don’t have the rent or cannot move out
within three days. But, complying with a notice is the one guaranteed method to stop eviction.
But what if the tenant is unable to comply with the eviction notice? In most parts of California,
it's difficult to find another place to live, especially within thirty days, let alone three days. So,
many tenants end up in a “holdover” situation. The circumstances don't permit a quick move,
leaving the tenant only one choice but to stay at their current property.
- Stop Eviction Notice?
Some of our clients ask if the actual notice itself can be stopped, but there is no method of
stopping notice directly. There is no direct way to stop a landlord from serving an eviction notice.
Although, there are indirect ways. One is through a public authority or agency. By filing a
complaint with the local housing authority, a tenant may be able to stop eviction. In cases of
wrongful eviction, housing authorities sometimes step in on behalf of the tenant and send the
landlord a letter regarding the wrongful eviction. The landlord risks losing an eviction action if the
eviction is wrongful or illegal, and the housing authority has notified him of such. Usually, a notice
from the housing authority will stop eviction. Another way also includes a public authority, where
a building and safety or health department have already cited or are in process of citing a landlord
for a deficient or “sub-standard” condition with the property. Some citations declare that the
property does not comply with the law and therefore illegal to rent, or rent must be reduced until
the deficient conditions are remedied.
To find the local housing authority or public agency in your area, click here.
Other than mentioned here, there really isn't a direct way to stop an eviction notice.
- Stop Unlawful Detainer Eviction
If a tenant is unable to comply with the eviction notice, the landlord will initiate an eviction lawsuit
to legally evict a tenant. Eviction lawsuits in California are called an “Unlawful Detainer” or “UD.”
The landlord will file a UD lawsuit or “complaint” with court, and then serve the complaint on the
tenant(s). The landlord must prevail in a UD lawsuit to legally evict.
So how do you stop a UD action? In some instances, landlords are willing to dismiss a UD if the
tenant pays the past due rent (plus legal fees) or move out before trial. However, most continue
with the action and won't accept rent while in proceedings (really, they can’t because if they do,
the case can become void). The landlord can refuse rent in full after the notice period has expired,
and during an eviction lawsuit. Aside paying the landlord as indicated above, there are methods
to stop eviction while in UD proceedings. These methods of stopping an eviction after it has gone
into the UD phase are very difficult and extremely stressful.
- Stop Eviction with a Motion to Quash
One method to stop eviction is with a “motion to quash,” to challenge the way the UD
was served. If it was not served as prescribed by law, a defendant may motion the court
to “quash” service. If the motion is successful, the landlord will need to re-serve the UD.
This process stops the eviction, but only for a short time. The courts will allow landlords
to re-serve the UD again, and landlords usually re-serve very quickly.
- Stop Eviction with a Motion to Dismiss
Another method to stop eviction is to file a motion to dismiss the case. There are different
types of these motions, and they are meant to present the court a legal defect in the UD
complaint itself. If the complaint has a defect that cannot sustain a UD action, or there is
an apparent inconsistency, a proper motion to dismiss can stop an eviction. Although a
surprising amount of UD complaints contain some sort of legal defect, it takes an
experienced eye and professional drafting of a complex motion to successfully expose the
defect. With this type of scenario, the court may dismiss the UD, or allow the landlord to
make corrections to the complaint within a few days. Either way, this process will stop
the eviction temporarily, as the landlord would not be barred from filing another UD or
“amend” the complaint.
This is important to know because in a majority of UD cases, even if the court dismisses
the eviction case, the landlord may still file a new one. The only real exceptions are when
the landlord evicts for an outrageous reason, then the court will not allow the same case
to be filed. But again, this is extremely rare.
- Stop Eviction with Trial
The third option is to fight the UD altogether. If the landlord has filed an illegal, defective,
or non-meritorious action, the tenant can challenge the eviction at trial. There is an
enormous risk with proceeding to trial for either side. Again, 99% of DIY self-represented
tenants lose at trial. Tenants do not have a successful track record in court representing
themselves, even with a winning case, because the correct or appropriate procedure or
evidence is not claimed or presented to the court, either in the tenant’s documents, at
trial, or both. If you want to stop eviction by fighting the case at trial, it is best to hire an
eviction attorney. There are too many variables involved with a trial, such as adequate
evidence, that make trials difficult for self-represented litigants. Obviously, winning at
trial can stop eviction. But beware, in most cases the landlord can come back and file yet
another eviction lawsuit.
During the UD phase, eviction can also be stopped by settlement agreement. The parties
can come to an agreement prior to or during trial and stop the eviction through
- Stop Eviction with a Settlement Agreement
At any time, the landlord and tenant can come to an agreement and stop eviction. The agreement
can be made before any eviction notice is served, before an unlawful detainer is filed, and even
right before or during an eviction trial. However, it should go without saying, there isn’t much
chance of an agreement AFTER a tenant loses at trial.
Settlement agreements are the most common way that eviction cases are resolved. Generally, it’s
always best for both sides to make some sort of agreement and avoid going to court. The first
thing we explain to our clients is to try to reach out to the landlord and see if there can be an
agreement worked to avoid eviction altogether. Landlords don’t want to go through the hassle
and expense of evicting tenants, they are often open to a fair settlement.
A settlement most certainly will stop an eviction. It is the most definitive way, outside of trial, of
stopping eviction and knowing for certain how matters will conclude. Settlement agreements also
take the risk out of an eviction trial.
- Stop Eviction through Bankruptcy
At any time before judgment, a tenant who files for bankruptcy can stop an eviction. Again, this
can only temporarily stop eviction. Bankruptcy proceedings filed before judgment of the UD puts
a “stay” on the eviction/UD (11 U.S.C. § 362). The UD case cannot move forward until the
bankruptcy court lifts the stay, usually around 30 days. If a tenant files bankruptcy after judgment
of the eviction case, then the landlord can still proceed with the eviction (11 U.S.C. § 362(b)(22)).
In short, there are limited ways to stop eviction or prevent it from being pursued again. If the landlord has
a legal reason to start the eviction process, the eviction “wheels” will keep turning until there is a
resolution. But, evictions can also be delayed (depending on the steps taken), or they may be defeated in
court, but not completely stopped as we described previously.