Common Eviction Mistakes Landlords Must Avoid - Article Banner

California is well-known for its lengthy and difficult eviction process. Residential tenants are protected by a number of specific and detailed laws, and there has to be a legally valid reason for landlords to remove a tenant from their home. 

Commercial property is different, of course, but the eviction laws can be just as challenging. 

Commercial tenants do not have the same legal protections as residential tenants, and if your commercial tenant is behind on rent or violating your lease agreement, you can take the necessary steps to have them removed from your property. You need to know, however, that attempting to evict a tenant can be a long and expensive process, especially if your eviction is contested. 

It’s easy to make a mistake while evicting a commercial tenant in the High Desert, and those mistakes will often be costly and time-consuming. 

Let’s take a look at the eviction process for commercial tenants, and which of the mistakes are most common. When you partner with a qualified High Desert property management company that works directly with professional eviction companies and attorneys, you’re less likely to make these mistakes. 

California Commercial Evictions 

Most evictions occur because a tenant has not paid rent. You can also evict a commercial tenant for breaching the lease agreement, but those matters are easier to work out with your tenants. Nonpayment of rent is difficult to move on from. 

Here’s the process you’ll need to follow when effectively evicting a commercial tenant in California:

  • Serve a Three Day Notice 

Your first order of business is to provide notice to your tenants that rent has not been paid, and you need them to catch up. As a commercial landlord, you may accept a partial payment and not waive your right to evict or compromise your intention to regain possession of the property. If your tenant pays part but not all of the rent, you can collect it and still continue with the eviction. This might not be the most advisable course of action; if you’re willing to work with your tenant and establish a payment arrangement or agreement, it might behoove you to put off the ultimate resolution – which is eviction. 

Serve your tenants a Three Day Notice to Quit or a Non-payment of Rent Notice that’s established in the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) §1161.1. This statute allows you to create and serve a document called “an estimated rent demand.” You have the opportunity to estimate the amount of rent due when, for various reasons, the exact amount is not known. The 3-Day Notice must clearly state the “reasonable estimated” amount of rent due.

Check your lease agreement before you serve this notice. It might indicate that a Five Day Notice is necessary. One mistake that’s easy to make is violating your own lease agreement. This will not help your eviction case. 

You’ll need to serve this notice to your tenant. If it is impractical to personally serve the tenant, the notice can be left with someone over the age of 18 at the property, with an additional copy mailed to the tenant. Otherwise, the notice can be posted in a prominent location at the property and, once again, a copy mailed to the tenant.

  • File Your Unlawful Detainer 

As with residential evictions, you’ll need to file for an Unlawful Detainer when the notice period comes and goes and you still have not managed to collect all the rent that’s due from your tenant. You’ll do this at the court and then you’ll wait for a hearing.

Now that you understand the general process of beginning an eviction on commercial tenants in the High Desert, let’s take a look at some of the potential mistakes you can make. 

Rushing Into an Eviction is a Mistake

A huge mistake is rushing into an eviction. You don’t want to head off to court and file the paperwork a day after your rent is late. Rent collection policies need to be consistently enforced. Your tenant should understand all the consequences for not paying rent on time, including the potential for eviction. 

However, it’s usually in your best interest to work with your tenant in order to get them up to date on their rental payments. 

Remember, commercial tenants have a huge interest in keeping their lease obligations. They’re running a business out of the space they’re renting from you, and if they lose that space, they’ll likely lose their business. They’re going to do whatever they can to prevent this. 

Save yourself money and time and frustration by working with your commercial tenants to get them into compliance with the lease and their rental payments. Talk to your tenants. Communicate about what you need from them. Do some investigating and find out why the rent is late. Are they struggling just this month or has an unexpected business issue caused a change in financial circumstances? You need to know this before you proceed. It could mean the difference between a lengthy and expensive eviction and a simple payment arrangement. 

Eviction should be a last resort. If you end up having to evict a commercial tenant in the High Desert, it means that communication has broken down completely and there’s no way to salvage your landlord and tenant relationship or the tenancy. It’s a mistake not to exhaust every effort before you get there.

Commercial Lease Agreements

Don’t make the mistake of having an improper or incorrect lease agreement. That will make eviction very difficult. If you don’t have a lease agreement in place, it will be nearly impossible. 

When you let your tenant move into your building or space without a signed lease agreement, it could take you some extra time to evict that tenant. Not having a lease agreement is a problem, and not having the right lease agreement is also a problem. If you downloaded a lease template from the internet, you may not have a document that’s legally enforceable in California. If it’s a residential lease agreement instead of a commercial lease agreement, you’ll have a hard time with enforcement. 

The lease should support your eviction process, not hinder it. A strong lease that’s compliant with local law will indicate:

  • What your rental collection policy is.
  • What happens when a tenant doesn’t pay rent. 
  • What you’ll do to recover rent that is owed.
  • How the lease agreement may be canceled if rent is not paid on time.

The judge will want to see a lease when you show up in court, trying to get possession of your property back. If you don’t have one, things can get complicated. 

Taking Steps Outside of the Legal Process 

Do not ever try to evict your tenants without going through the proper legal channels that are required. 

Not only is this a mistake, it’s a potential legal problem for you.

We understand how frustrating it is when rent isn’t paid. When there’s a tenant who is essentially taking up your space for free, you can become angry. You plan your own finances around that rental income, and it’s a natural response to want to hold your tenants accountable to the lease agreement and their financial obligations. 

But, you need to remain professional and you need to follow the legal process. 

Here is what you cannot do when a commercial tenant isn’t paying rent:

  • You cannot change the locks on the building they’re renting from you.
  • You cannot turn off or restrict the utilities in that space. 
  • You cannot confront the tenants at the property and demand that they pay or leave. 
  • You cannot move their equipment, inventory, or other belongings out of the property. 

These things will get you in trouble and only make the eviction process worse for you. 

Avoid the urge to take drastic (and illegal) actions. When your tenant is not paying rent, follow the eviction process. If your emotions are likely to take hold, talk to a High Desert property manager, who is likely to have a direct and established relationship in place with a qualified eviction attorney. When your lawyer handles all of the tenant communications and the court process for you, there’s less risk that you’ll make an unintentional mistake. 

Preparing for Court 

When you finally have the opportunity to show up in court and tell the judge why your tenants should be evicted, you don’t want to make the unfortunate mistake of not being prepared. It’s a mistake to just show up and expect the court to trust your word. You need to bring copies of:

  • Your lease agreement
  • The Notice you served
  • Any other correspondence regarding overdue rent
  • Your accounting ledger that shows unpaid rent accounts

Be ready to demonstrate that you have exhausted every process for getting your tenants to come into compliance and pay the rental amount. When you follow the law to the letter, you’ll get the outcome you want.

Possibly the biggest mistake you can make when evicting a tenant from your commercial property is doing everything yourself. Talk to a property manager in the High Desert who works directly with a California eviction attorney so you can be sure that everything is in order. Don’t make those simple mistakes that can easily set you back and lead to larger errors. 

We can talk to you about our legal partners, who have experience evicting commercial tenants when necessary. As property managers, we can offer advice and support, but the legal resources should come directly from an attorney.

Contact Property ManagementIf you have questions about how we can help, please contact us at Preston-Lee Management Company. We’ve been providing property management services in the High Desert for more than 30 years.