The notice that landlords place upon the door of their tenants as the starting point of an eviction is the single most important party of any eviction. While the “complaint” for Unlawful Detainer, which is the paper that describes your cause of action to the court, might have mistakes, the notice cannot. Under California law, which supposedly interepretes federal law, the notice must be absolutely perfect, and then some.
What I mean by that is I have been to court on cases where my notice was flawless. It described the place, the person, the amount of money due, and the time that the person was required to respond in. It described how the money was to be paid.
Then legal aid got involved.
Without a worry, they filed on the basis that I did not mention in my notice that past rent was owed. The guy owed more than $15,000 in back rent (don’t ask) and for various reasons I decided to simply evict him for a single months worth of rent, starting after the rent was due.
Legal aid filed a demurrer on behalf of this character and the Judge, astonishingly, granted it because I didn’t mention the rent from other months. The reason? Because it made the complaint “unclear” as to how much rent was due.
Logically, this makes absolutely no sense at all. The contract stated when the rent was due. The notice was posted after the first of the month. There is no logical way to make an argument that this made anything uncertain. It takes only the most raw type of inference on the part of the defendant, an inference that anywhere else, in any other type of lawsuit, would be required. Nonetheless, the judge was not swayed by my argument. I pointed out that there was no authority under California law for the proposition that past months rent must be mentioned or asked for.
The court gently stated that he had thought about the argument, mentioned the federal laws in passing, and reaffirmed his order.
So if you want to be safe, make sure your notice always states exactly how much rent is due, and for which months. Break it down. It doesn’t matter whether it is logical or not.