California 3 Day Notice to Pay

Author: Todd Christiansen | Category: Eviction

Earlier I wrote a long post about evicting a tenant in California.  I wanted to take a some time and expand on the 3 day notice to quit portion of that process.  Unlike Minnesota, where there is no requirement to notify a tenant, in California, you must present a tenant with an initial demand letter.  This demand letter is to have the tenant do something (pay rent) or stop doing something (causing a nuisance).  This same notice can also be used to demand the tenant move out (vacate).

The most common reason to use the 3 day notice is to inform the tenant that they must pay rent and that if they do not, you as the landlord/owner intend to file an eviction.  This rent payment notice must follow the below guidelines:

  • An actual demand for the exact amount currently due.   This may include late fees, but sometimes this can simply complicate the issue and confuse the tenant so don’t add a trivial late fee like $30 and have to argue about it in court!  California judges seem to be very strict on this point, so it is better to be a little low on the total due than over.
  • How and where to pay it (as a landlord, you can’t hide from the tenant to prevent them from paying it).
  • A demand that if the rent is not paid within 3 days that the tenant vacates the property.
  • The signature of the landlord and the date signed.
  • The notice to pay must be served after any grace period has expired.

The 3 day notice may also include an “election of forfeiture of tenancy”.  This effectively means that no matter what the tenant does, you are cancelling their lease.  Without this language, the tenant could pay all the past due amounts and other fees and the landlord would be required to allow him to stay.  Now, this may be OK, but there are certainly many bad tenants that you don’t want to stay.

This notice must be formally served on the tenant by:

  • Delivering a personal copy to the tenant
  • Leaving a copy with an adult that lives at the premises or works at the business.
  • Posting a copy in a conspicuous area.

If you do either of the last 2, you must also mail a copy of the documents to the last known address for the tenant.  I would send that via certified mail and I would document all the steps you went through (with dates and times) to show you made every effort to find and serve that tenant.  California judges (especially ones in San Francisco) seem to love to throw out cases when they see that the landlord was sloppy in the service of the 3 day notice to pay.  Don’t make it easy on the tenant!

After the 3 days have passed (I personally would wait 5 days to insure that again, you can demonstrate you have given ample time for the tenant to respond), you can move forward and file the eviction in California Superior Court.

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