Understand an Unlawful Detainer in California

Understanding your rights and options is important while facing an active eviction.

How to answer unlawful detainer in California

When served with an unlawful detainer or an eviction notice in California, tenants tend to get panicky. The first thing to do when served with the complaint of eviction is to file an answer for unlawful detainer in California. According to the laws of the state, a tenant has five days to answer unlawful detainer and serve a copy on time with the help of their attorney. In case of a failure to answer the unlawful detainer, a default can be entered against the defendant. The property owner in such a case can acquire the right of possession of their house quickly, usually within a few days. Therefore, it becomes necessary for a tenant in California to answer unlawful detainer within a short span of time on being served with the summons. 


The response time for a defendant to answer the unlawful detainer summons and eviction complaint is stipulated as five days, including Saturdays and Sundays but excluding the court holidays. However, the defendant can expect to receive an extension of the response deadline in case when the fifth happens to be a Saturday or a Sunday. An extension of 15 days for giving response to unlawful detainer and summons can be given if the complaint is not served personally but a copy of it is given to someone else residing at the premises in question and another copy was send through mail to the defendant. In such a situation, court holidays are accounted in the fifteen-day extension period. There can be an extension of this 15-day period in case when the last day falls on a Saturday or a Sunday. 


In cases where the tenants, who have been served with unlawful detainer summons, have filed other authorized responsive pleading such as a motion to strike, a motion to quash or a demurrer before expiration of the five days need not have to respond to the summons within the stipulated time. The filing of an authorized pre-answer response pleading by the defendant before the expiry of five-day period extends more time to him to answer the complaint. 


Extension of time to answer the unlawful detainer may also be given by the court in case when the defendant is successful in showing a good cause for the time needed to respond. Time needed to obtain filing fees often works as a good cause for the court to grant extension to the defendant. However, an application for a good cause to take more time for responding to unlawful detainer summons has to be made within the five-day answer period. On expiry of this period, the plaintiff has the right to obtain a default entry, by way of which the defendant’s subsequently filed application for extension of time to answer the summons would not stand valid. 


Response of the defendant has to be verified as verification is needed for unlawful detainer. While all those defendants responding have to sign the answer, only one needs to verify the answer. An answer that has not been verified answer is subject to a motion to strike in its entirety; but such a motion has to be made within 10 days after service of the answer. 

(310) 492-2455