The Potential Pitfalls of Self-Help Evictions

Whether you are a commercial landlord with multiple properties or an individual renting out a single family home, California law requires all landlords to follow the same strict procedures to evict a tenant.

Although you may be tempted to bypass these procedures in lieu of a faster resolution, so-called “self-help” eviction options can come back to haunt you.

Examples of Self-Help Eviction

The term “self-help eviction” is used to describe informal and unlawful methods of residential and commercial eviction that occur outside the legal system. Although a handful of states permit landlords to use self-help evictions methods for commercial tenants, California law expressly prohibits it. Thus, landlords must take care to avoid engaging in any of the following self-help eviction methods for both residential and commercial tenants:

Harassing a Tenant

Although a landlord is certainly free to discuss missed rent payments or other lease violations with a tenant, this does not permit the landlord to threaten, harass, or insult the tenant. Aggressive behavior could result in a verbal dispute or a physical altercation, which could even lead to criminal charges. Overall, it is best to handle disputes in writing; once a dispute escalates, it is even better to turn it over to your attorney.

Shutting Off the Utilities

California law prohibits landlords from turning off a tenant’s utilities in retaliation for a lease violation. Landlords who cancel a tenant’s utilities can be liable for any expenses (a forced move, a hotel stay) the tenant suffers as a result.

Removing a Tenant’s Possessions

If a tenant stops paying rent, the landlord does not have carte blanche to start removing the tenant’s property from the rental unit. A landlord cannot select an item of property the landlord feels is comparable to the rent amount and hold it “hostage” until the tenant pays. This behavior is strictly prohibited under California law and could result in costly punitive damages for the landlord.

Changing the Locks

The landlord does not have the right to change the locks to keep the tenant from entering the property.

California Eviction Law Firm

Led by Attorney Kirkman J. Hoffman, the entire legal team at Hoffman Law Group has the experience and knowledge to guide you through the eviction process. Let Hoffman Law Group protect your business and your bottom line. Call the office today at (408) 241-9620 to discuss your eviction matter.


This website has been prepared by Hoffman Law Group, APC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.