Landlord Tenant (Unlawful Detainer) Information

Información de Desalojo (Retención Ilícita)

What is an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit?

An unlawful detainer lawsuit is a suit brought by a landlord to obtain possession of the rented property and receive payment of back rent. In order to legally evict a tenant (remove and lock the tenant out of the property), the landlord must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit. An award for possession of property authorizes the landlord to evict you from the property. If the landlord is also awarded judgment for payment of back rent, he or she may collect the judgment by attaching your property, garnishing your wages, or any other legal means.

How Should You Respond to an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit?

If you are served with an unlawful detainer complaint, the complaint will show the court location where you should file your response. You have 5 days from the date you were served to respond in writing to the landlord’s complaint and file your response with the court. After you have filed your response to the landlord’s complaint in the clerk’s office and a Request for Setting is filed by the plaintiff, you will both be notified by mail of the time and place of the trial. You must pay a filing fee when you file your written response, however, it is possible to obtain a waiver of this fee if you cannot afford to pay it. In order to obtain a fee waiver, you must file an Application for Waiver of Court Fees and Costs at the time you file your response. The application for Waiver for Court Fees and Costs form may be obtained from the clerk’s office.

Writs of Possession and Notices to Vacate

If the case goes to trial and the landlord is awarded judgment against you and for possession of the property, the landlord can then obtain a Writ of Possession. This legal document authorizes the Sheriff to physically remove and lock you out of the property. The Sheriff will post a Notice to Vacate the property before enforcing the Writ of Possession. After the Sheriff posts the notice, you have 5 days to move. If you fail to move within the 5 days, the Sheriff will physically remove you and turn over the possession of the property to the landlord. The Sheriff’s cost for the eviction may be added to the judgment, which the landlord can collect from you.

Failure to Respond to the Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

The court may enter a default judgment in favor of the landlord and issue a Writ of Possession after the 5th day if you fail to file your written response with the court. There is no trial if you do not file a written response to the unlawful detainer complaint. This default judgment allows the landlord to obtain possession of the property.

The Right to a Jury Trial

Both parties have a right to request a jury trial. To request a jury trial, the requesting party must file a document entitled Request for Setting. If the landlord files this document and does not request a jury trial, you have 5 days from the mailing date of the Request for Setting to file a Counter Request for Setting requesting a jury trial. You will be mailed a Clerk’s Notice of Trial informing you of the trial date. The party requesting a jury trial is responsible for the initial jury fees, which must be posted with the court 5 days before the trial date.

Changing a Trial Date

To change your trial date, you need to file one of the following:

  • Motion for Continuance and a declaration showing a good reason for the continuance
  • Written Stipulation, (agreed to by both parties), along with a declaration showing a good reason for the continuance and an order

The paperwork must be filed as soon as the need for a continuance is known. You must also pay a filing fee when you file the motion or stipulation.

Preparing for Trial

If you are not represented by an attorney, you can represent yourself. If you are representing yourself, you may want to consult:

Inland County Legal Services

Rancho Cucamonga:

(909) 980-0982

San Bernardino:

(909) 884-8615


(760) 241-7072


You may want to subpoena witnesses you feel are necessary for your case for appearance in court. The subpoena must be personally served. The person served must be given reasonable notice of the date and time of the trial. You should bring the proof of service to court with you. There are costs to subpoena each witness, including witnesses’ mileage to and from the trial location, and you must pay these costs.

When You Come to Court on the Trial Date

  • Bring any letters, documents, inspection reports, pictures, receipts or any other exhibits with you
  • Have at least three copies of all documents, an original for the court & a copy for the opposing party
  • Dress appropriately. Inappropriate dress includes jeans, shorts or tank tops

Interpreters for Unlawful Detainer Cases

The court provides interpreters for unlawful detainer cases for parties who do not speak English or require a sign language interpreter. Please provide the court with sufficient notice of your need.


If the landlord obtains a judgment against you, you will have to move. The judgment may include the landlord’s court costs and attorney fees plus any proven damages. Filing an appeal does not automatically suspend or delay enforcement of the judgment.

Failure to Appear at Trial

If the landlord fails to appear for a scheduled trial, the court may dismiss the case without any further action. If a tenant fails to appear for a scheduled trial, the court will proceed by default and may render a judgment for the landlord. This judgment allows the landlord to obtain possession of the property. In addition, the court may also enter a money judgment for the landlord and against the tenant.

Self Help for Landlords & Tenants

Free self help assistance is provided by the Court for both landlords and tenants. We can answer your questions about the law and procedures. We can also provide the forms for you. We cannot represent you in Court and we do not provide any legal advice.

Free Online Form Kits & Information

Landlord-Tenant (UD) Smart Forms and Instructions

Using these smart forms can save you time and frustration. Instead of writing certain information over and over, these forms will know where to put that information on the forms for you. The forms also contain instructions to help you fill them out. After you print out your forms, stop by at one of our Resource Centers so we can talk about your case and your forms.

Help Available at These Court Resource Centers

Barstow Courthouse

235 E. Mountain View Street, Lower Level
Barstow, CA 92311
Hours: Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm; Friday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm
Arrive early as there is always a high demand for services.

Fontana Courthouse

17780 Arrow Boulevard, 2nd Floor
Fontana, CA 92335
Hours: Monday through Thursday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm; Friday from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm
Arrive early as there is always a high demand for services.