Practice Area – Real Estate
Mr. Tuann grew up in a landlord family in Berkeley Hills. 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
- Drafting leases for commercial or residential
- Fence/boundary disputes
- Unlawful Detainer aka Eviction
- ADR(mediation, binding and non-binding arbitration)
- Broker/seller misrepresentation to buyer
- Quiet Title
- Security deposits
- Advising clients preparing for small claims court
(Unlawful Detainer is the legal term):
Eviction is a hurried up civil lawsuit to regain possession of real property. Normal civil cases, say car accidents or breach of contract, will take 18 months to get to trial. Eviction cases are to be tried within 20 days under California law. The landlord has title; he or she is seeking the Court’s help to obtain physical possession of the rental property. 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, etc. Calling the police will not help either, the police will just tell you to contact an attorney.
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 $350 to draft and serve 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. Very likely the tenants have not moved, forcing us to go to Superior Court to file and serve an Unlawful Detainer action. Our office charges $350 per hour, with $5,000 retainer for Contra Costa and $10,000 retainer for Alameda county UD cases.
We will draft and file the unlawful detainer complaint in the local Superior Court, usually in limited jurisdiction. There is a $150 charge to rush serve each adult tenant, plus $240 filing fee payable to Superior Court, more for unlimited jurisdiction, that is above $10,000 in unpaid back rent.
It usually takes a few days to effect service on tenants/defendants, plus all others in possession. If Tenants have not filed their answer, we draft and file Request For Default, get Judgment for Possession, obtain a Writ of Possession($40 fee to Court) and drive to Sheriff’s Civil Division to pay for Sheriff’s Eviction($145 fee to Sheriffs Civil Unit). 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 thousands in legal fees, $240 in filing fee, and cost of process service and take a minimum of five weeks from date of filing UD to actual eviction date by county sheriffs.
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 (Trial):
If there is a trial, most like it will be a bench trial, and if we win, we can evict with Sheriff’s eviction. One of the landlords must appear at trial to take the witness stand. If we win, we will obtain a judge-signed judgment for possession and lost back rent, filing fees, attorney fees and cost of service. Our office will then obtain the Writ of Possession($40) and pay the Sheriffs to evict($145). Often, the tenant has no real defense, but will seek a trial just to obtain three more weeks of living there rent free. Most tenants are judgment proof, in that no matter what amount is awarded for back rent, attorney’s fees and costs, the landlord is highly unlikely ever to obtain any money from the tenant. The tenant has nothing to lose, other than a judgment for eviction which will hurt his credit rating. By answering the eviction complaint, the tenant will stretch out the eviction process to about two months.
Sometimes, the tenants seek a jury trial. They do this to stall and delay. Alameda County juries are liberal and pro-tenant. Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Joaquin county juries are more conservative and pro-landlord. Often the tenants seek a jury trial, not to win, but to drive up the landlord’s litigation costs. It takes several weeks to get a jury trial, and many court appearances. Jury selection takes half to one day; trial itself takes another half-day.
Eviction Defense Center is an Oakland law firm handling eviction defense for low income tenants. The other ones are El Centro Legal, EastBay Community Defense Center, etc. These “civil rights groups” and “non-profit tenants’ right organizations” know how to stall. The more they stall, while their tenant live rent free, the more frustrated the landlords get. These non-profit groups usually get a favorable settlement because landlord attorneys know that tenants can delay jury trials for weeks due to their busy calendar. If landlord wins at trial, these tenants’ rights groups know how to delay further by appealing to Court of Appeal, by having tenant file a “skeletal” bankruptcy in US Bankruptcy Court, etc.
Cash for Keys:
Knowing the above, some landlords have chosen to bribe their tenants into leaving. The landlord offers from $2,000 to $17,000 in exchange for tenants leaving quickly and with minimal damage to the property. Often, landlords start out by offering “cash for keys.” Our office charges one hour or $350 to draft and mail or email a “cash for keys” offer. Our cash for keys is an exchange for the tenants leaving and giving up their legal right to sue for mold, asbestos, discrimination, COVID, defect in notice, wrongful eviction, etc., the landlord promises in writing to pay an agreed amount. We do this in a two-step process. When the tenants sign, we give them a cashier’s check for half, and when the tenants leave the premises, they get the second half, also via cashier’s check. These “cash for keys” are contracts and enforceable in any court. Judges hate when a party, either tenant or landlord, breaks a written contract. Paying tenants to move out can be much cheaper and faster than jury trials, endless litigation, stall tactics, etc.
Out of State Landlords
For many of our East Coast, foreign and overseas clients, we accept online payment, our paypal account is firstname.lastname@example.org, our zelle payment account is 925-895-9419. We use the internet to email PDFs for clients to review and sign. The only time we need a physical presence is at trial, bench or jury. Our office works with many local property managers, realtors, agents and brokers.
If a landlord, tenant, or property manager has further questions, please call our office 925 831-4878 or email email@example.com.