Practice Area – Real Estate
Mr. Tuann grew up in a landlord family in Berkeley. He has dealt with rent control since the 1980s. He has represented numerous landlords in evictions, in defending against lawsuits from tenants, in negotiating move-outs, etc. Mr. Tuann is also a licensed California real estate salesperson, #01365961.
- Purchase & Sale
- Secured Transactions
- Title Disputes
- Construction Contracts
- Landlord – Tenant
- Unlawful Detainer aka Eviction
- ADR(mediation, binding and non-binding arbitration)
- Construction Defect
- Broker/Owner Misrepresentation
- Quiet Title
(Unlawful Detainer is the legal term):
An eviction is a hurried up civil lawsuit to regain physical possession of real property. The owner already has title. In a normal civil case, say car accident or breach of contract, it takes 18 months to get to trial. Eviction cases are to be tried within 50 days of landlord filing UD. California law does not want landlords to resort to “self-help.” Do not try to physically evict tenants, turn off the utilities, lock out tenants, calling the police to evict, etc.
The vast majority of evictions are due to non-payment of rent. The landlord begins the eviction process by serving a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. Our office charges $100 to draft this document, along with its proof of service. Some landlords do this part themselves. Once the three days are over and the tenant has not paid, file the eviction lawsuit.
We charge $600 for drafting and filing the unlawful detainer complaint in the local Superior Court. We will also use a professional process server to serve the Defendants, plus ALL OTHER OCCUPANTS. There is an $80 charge to rush serve the first adult tenant ($85 in Contra Costa County), plus $240 filing fee payable to Superior Court. Serving each adult tenants after the first tenant incurs a small fee, $55 or less.
It usually takes a few days to effect service on tenants/defendants. Our office charges $600 to draft and file Request For Default, get Judgment for Possession, obtain a Writ of Possession($25 fee to Court) and drive to Sheriff’s Civil Division to pay for Sheriff’s Eviction($145 fee to Sheriffs).
The Sheriffs take about three weeks to evict. Within 72 hours, the local Sheriffs will place a Notice to Evict on the tenant’s front door specifying a date and time when the Sheriffs will return to evict. Our office will inform the landlord and the landlord will be there on the exact date & time to meet three armed, and wearing body armor, sheriffs to change the locks(all of them). Once the landlord has changed the locks, the landlord has legal possession once again.
If the tenant tries to break back in, the tenant can be arrested for burglary, breaking & entering, felony trespass, etc. About half our eviction cases end in a default with sheriffs’ eviction. But, even this way will take $1,100 in legal fees, $240 in filing fee, and cost of process service and take a minimum of five weeks from date of filing eviction with Superior Court.
If the tenants file an answer to the eviction complaint, usually they will not serve the answer on counsel or landlord. We will not know until we try to obtain a default. While trying to obtain a default(see above), we will also bring a Request to Set Case For Trial. If we find that the tenants have answered the eviction lawsuit, we will file the Request to Set immediately, forcing the Court to provide a bench trial date within 20 days.
Step Three (Settlement Conf.):
Before the Landlord can try the eviction case against tenants, the Court in Alameda County forces everyone to attend a MSC, Mandatory Settlement Conference. We charge $600 because they take anywhere from 3 hours to all day.
Step Four (Trial):
We charge $600 for each half day or full day of trial. A bench trial takes less work and can be done in one day, plus prep time of 1 to 2 hours the day before. A jury trial will take up to two days, plus an entire day, usually Sunday, before jury trial to prepare jury instructions, witness list, exhibits, questions & answers for each witness. Jury trials are often used by tenants to delay an eviction, not because they have a strong defense. Often, tenants use juries to get sympathy when they can’t afford rent. Our office charges $1,800 for jury trials.
At trial, the landlord or an agent, property manager, must appear at trial to take the witness stand for the landlord. Some clients want lawyers to testify, no we can’t. Witnesses do not talk to the Judge; witnesses only answer questions posed by the attorneys. UD trials can be as short as 5 minutes if the Tenant does not show up to two days if there are many tenants testifying. If landlord wins, we will obtain a judge-signed judgment for possession and lost back rent, filing fees, attorney fees and cost of service. If Landlord loses, Tenants get to stay, but the Judge will require that all back rent be paid within a few days. If Tenants fail to pay back rent, judgment for possession to Landlord. Suppose Landlord’s 3 Day Notice was for $5,000 in unpaid rent, and at trial, the judge or jury, finds that Tenants owe only $3,000 in unpaid rent, then Tenants have to pay the unpaid $3,000 within a few days to stay. The Tenant “winning” does not mean Tenant can live rent free or stay forever. If Landlord loses, Landlord can wait a few months, serve another 3 Day Notice or 60 Day Notice and try again.
Step Five (After Judgment for Possession):
By the time a judge signs the Judgment, it is too late to get the Writ & Sheriff’s Eviction on that date, so we have to charge another $600 for Step 5. Our office will then obtain the Writ of Possession($25 fee for issuance of Writ) from Superior Court civil clerk and drive to Sheriff’s Civil Office pay the County Sheriffs to evict($145 fee to Sheriffs). This step alone can takes half a day in Alameda County as the Sheriff’s Civil Office is only in Oakland, while all the UD cases are in Hayward Superior Court.
Don’t Expect to get all the back rent.
Most tenants are judgment proof, in that no matter what amount is awarded for back rent, attorney’s fees and costs, the landlord is unlikely ever to obtain all of this money from the ex-tenants. When choosing tenants, look at their employment history. Tenants who are self-employed or not employed are hard to pursue for money. Tenants who have a good job history are much better. Landlords can garnish their wages for unpaid back rent.
Warning! Alameda County juries and courts, judges & court employees, are liberal and pro-tenant. Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Joaquin county juries are more conservative and pro-landlord. This means that in Alameda County, the landlord must be perfect with documents and cannot do anything stupid like using racist names against tenants. Juries feel bad for low income tenants, single parents, especially moms, and will bend over backwards to keep the tenants at their homes.
East Bay Legal Center & Eviction Defense Center & other pro bono or low income law firms are law firms dedicated to eviction defense. When tenants hire EDC or EBLC, they stall and stall. The more they stall, the more free rent the tenant gets, the more frustrated the landlord gets, and EDC & EBLC usually get favorable settlements because landlord attorneys know that EDC & EBLC can delay jury trials for weeks due to their busy calendar.
If landlord wins at trial, the EDC & EBLC know how to delay further by appealing to Court of Appeal, by having tenant file a “skeletal” bankruptcy in US Bankruptcy Court, etc. The good news is that when a landlord “settles” with these dedicated tenant lawyers, the settlements are enforceable and our clients have 100% success in finally evicting these tenants. This means that if a landlord agrees in writing to waive four months of rent and/or pay $4,000, these tenant lawyers have been 100% effective in actually having their tenants move out by the time period agreed upon.
Cash for Keys:
Knowing the above, many landlords bribe their tenants into leaving. The landlord offers from $1,000 to $17,000(plus several months of free or waived rent) in exchange for tenants leaving quickly and with minimal damage to the property. Our office has written settlement agreements where in exchange for the tenants leaving and giving up their right to sue for mold, asbestos, discrimination, etc., the landlord promises in writing to pay. These contracts are enforceable in court. Judges hate when a party, either tenant or landlord, breaks a contract. Paying tenants to move out is much cheaper and faster than jury trials. We charge $200 to draft and send out via email and/or mail a Cash for Keys Stip Offer. We recommend that as soon as the Tenant files an UD Answer, the landlord should start negotiations with a Cash for Keys Offer. The Alameda County courts will force everyone to negotiate anyway at the MSC, so the landlord can save three weeks by starting ASAP.
Enforcement of Settlement
Any signed agreement with Tenants or their attorneys is enforceable by the court. Suppose the Tenants signed an agreement to move out by end of next month, in exchange for $5,000. If Landlord paid the $5,000 but the Tenants are still there after the end of the month, Landlord’s attorney will do an ex parte application by drafting ex parte pleadings and having the Judge sign a Judgment for Possession and back rent due. Our office charges $600 for this process. We will try to get the Judgment filed immediately, but the Superior Court may take up to two days to scan the Judgment. We cannot get the Writ issued without the Judgment being scanned. Writ & Sheriff’s Eviction is another $600, see Step Five above.
Out of State Landlords
For many of our East Coast, foreign or overseas clients, we use the internet to email PDFs for clients to review and sign. Clients can wire funds or pay online via Bank of America or paypal.com. The only time we need a physical presence is at trial, bench or jury. Our office works with many local property managers, realtors, investors, agents and brokers.
If a landlord, tenant, or property manager has further questions, please call our office 925 831-4878.