Answer to an  Unlawful Detainer Complaint in California

  • Deadline to file an answer to an unlawful detainer complaint in California:

Filing and serving an answer to an unlawful detainer eviction complaint in California before the deadline is critical. Failure to file and serve on time will result in a default being entered against the defendant or defendants being sued for eviction. That means, if the tenant does not answer the complaint, the judge can order the tenant off the property permanently.

The landlord can obtain a judgment for possession of the property very quickly, usually within a few days in most California counties, if the tenant makes no answer.

Once the tenant is appropriately served, they typically have five calendar days to answer the court and provide a copy to the landlord or their lawyer. The five-day period includes Saturdays and Sundays but excludes other court holidays. If the fifth day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the response deadline is increased to the next day court is in session.

If the summons and complaint were not served personally but instead by substituted service, then court holidays are counted in this type of situation. Although again if the last day to answer falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or court holiday, the deadline is also increased to the following summary court procedure day.

Thus, an answer to the unlawful detainer eviction complaint must be filed before the expiration of the five days. Alternatively, the tenant may file an active pleading that temporarily excuses the duty to answer, such as a motion to defeat, objection, motion to strike, etc. The filing of a motion to defeat, motion to strike, or another authorized answer extends the defendant’s time to answer the complaint. But the answer pleading must itself have been filed within the five-day answer period unless a designated or court-granted extension of time has been obtained.

Application for an extension of time may be made by either side, Ex Parte. But some form of informal notice must be given to the plaintiff (that is, the landlord), and the defendant’s (tenant’s) written application must advise the court of the nature of the case and what extensions, if any, have previously been granted.

Usually, a party asking an Ex Parte order (an order by just one side) in a civil case must inform all parties about the Ex Parte hearing no later than 10:00 a.m. the court day before the Ex Parte presentation. In unlawful detainer proceedings, however, an Ex Parte applicant may give more brief advice “provided that the notice given is reasonable.”

The Ex Parte application must be associated by a claim saying one of three things:

(i) That notice to evict the tenant was given, including the date, time, manner and name of the party informed, the relief sought, whether opposition is expected, and that the applicant told the opposing party where and when the application would be made; or

(ii) That a good-faith effort to notify the opposing party was made, but the applicant was unable to do so; or

(iii) Why notice would not be needed. If the announcement in an unlawful detainer proceeding was provided later than 10:00 a.m. the court date before the Ex Parte appearance, the declaration must state why the notice was reasonable.

The maximum extension is ordinarily 10 days unless the plaintiff consents to a longer time or the court otherwise orders for “good cause” shown. The defendant’s (the tenant’s) answer must be confirmed since the UD complaint must be confirmed. Note that all answering defendants must sign and check the answer. An unverified answer is subject to a motion to strike in its entirety, but the action must be made within 10 days after service of the solution.

  • Legal demands for an answer to an unlawful detainer complaint in California:

The function of the tenant’s answer is to put the case at issue to all material allegations in the complaint. All material claims does not mean an allegation must be rejected. If the allegations are not denied, then they are automatically considered to be accepted. Defendants should not respond to each paragraph separately, deny parts, or deny based on lack of information or belief.

Legal defenses are limited. The defendant bears the burden of pleading all essential elements that the landlord raises in the unlawful detainer complaint, which means he must answer to the scope and extent of the landlord’s justification for eviction. But the tenant need not answer with detailed facts to each allegation or element.

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