Ongoing eviction from hell in California

123 Replies

Hello All, 

I am brand new to BiggerPockets and find it to be a great place comprised of helpful advice and expertise. I am a landlord of a single family home in California that has run my property as a charity rather than a business and I am paying for it now. I rented my single family home to a couple on a Month to Month rental agreement  that said that they had three kids in college and none of them were on the lease. They were overall late on rent, the rent is 40% below the market value, they would be  complaining about issues but never being available for the contractors to come and fix those issues.....

Covid comes and they stop paying and would pay 20% of the rent every three to four months. This January, we get a message from them that the roof is leaky and  after having given a 24h notice we arrange for a professional roofer to inspect the roof two days later.My husband shows up at the house with the roofer and one of the sons comes out and tells my husband that he can't come in but only the roofer. So my mother-in-law who was also there said that she is about to call the sheriff and the son lets them in. 

During this visit, we discover that in addition to original tenants, there are 6 extra people living there.  It's a 3 bedroom house. The two sons, sons' girlfriends, one year old child and an elderly woman, mother of the female tenant. The kitchen has a bed in it, and the rooms have blankets over furniture and no light. I immediately told my husband that I will contact a lawyer to start the eviction procedure for unauthorized occupants.The tenants' lawyer responds, and in his response fills out every box in the denials section, from habitability issues to retaliation passing  rent control, etc. and of course ask for a jury trial. 

Our court date was today, and we were informed three days ago that a son of the tenants is making a tutorial for marijuana farm cultivation in our backyard. We receive 25 short videos of him going step by step from taking marijuana plants from the kitchen to using welding generator to start building the farm structure in the backyard. The city representative went to the house but they didn't open the door so he left a notice of violation on the door and informed us about it. We wanted the city to dismantle the structure as all this was on social media in public view possibly making our home a target of marijuana related home invasion, or any other crime. Today, the city officer went their with the sheriff and all the marijuana was removed and the tenants were very friendly and compliant. Their criminal backgrounds were clean. Of course, they had two days to remove all the incriminating evidence. 

Today we show up in court, and our lawyer tells us that considering the backlog in courts, it may take up to 6 months to actually get the jury trial and that the tenants are holding us hostages so we can keep losing money, we should make them a settlement offer. As we need the house so we can move in as we live currently in one room within my husband's father's house where I teach my classes online while my kids are on Zoom at the same time, we said that we are willing to forgive $25 000 rental debt and give them two extra months to leave. Their lawyer said that they may consider our offer if we give them an extra year of rent free stay at the house!!!! So pretty much two and a half year of free rent to four generations of a family that has no right per lease to be there.  

Their lawyer refuses the offer arguing that since they were able to deposit $500 in money order onto my account we have waived our eviction rights..of course, I had returned their money orders with a letter stating that we have not waived our rights to evict and I closed my bank account.  Then the lawyer says that growing marijuana is not a big deal, and that being threatened by one of the sons is not a big deal either, the son told us that he knew where we lived and made the sign of cutting one's throat while looking at my husband.  

Our lawyer said that in 30 years of her career, she hasn't seen anything like this and that marijuana farm tutorial on its own deserves to earn them an automatic eviction, but since they asked for a jury trial the judge has to approve it.  

I am wondering if any of you had any similar experience and what advice would you have on how to deal with this situation? 

Thank you! 

Thanks for you response Carl! Their lawyer said that it was not a big deal, for both marijuana farm being built on my property and death threats. We went to the police, they listened to the recorded audio threats and said that they cannot do anything since it was only verbal threats. But they took the report. As far as the video and audio evidence of marijuana harvesting goes, apparently, in California you can grow up to 99 plants before the police show up. 

With the losses you’re likely to incur, have you tried to offer them cash to leave immediately? If they leave in a month, you’ll pay them $X. X being less than what you will lose by waiting.

They’ve obviously have some money if they’ve hired an attorney?

I’m no legal expert but can your attorney also file a suit for the back rent and get a lien against them to garnish their salary (I have a feeling there won’t be any official salaries). 

I’m guessing all the utilities are being paid for?

You offered them $25,000 and they rejected it. Go to trial. An attorney should cost less than $25,000 and that's what you've already offered to spend. It sucks, it's painful, but you need to keep the pressure on them and get rid of them legally.

Thank you for your input Nathan! Indeed, our offer of forgiving 25 000$ of rental debt, two months to leave( meaning two other months of free rent) and no civil suit for all damages created to the property. We just spent 3000$ fixing up the roof as some of the unauthorized occupants practiced some disc/Frisbee throwing activity on the roof of  which of course they posted videos on social media as well.... 

We just want our house back to move in and move on. In California, the system is intrinsically pro tenant independently from the facts and material evidence which strongly promotes the strategies of extortion that small landlords are subjected to in their attempt to take possession of their property. 

So when an unauthorized occupant threatens to slice the throat of the landlord it is not a big deal, but imagine what would have happened if it was the other way around, and if a landlord threatened a tenant in a similar way? 

Document everything. Call the police every time. If you pay them, they won't move. Put cameras up and camera where you live. 

Time to visit the neighbors with cookies and find out what else these users are up to. 

RE pot: they have to be 21, and its 6 plants. 

Minors in the house? Social services needs to know. City does NOT dismantle the grow house, they might red tag the house, which you don't want. Forget ever collecting on a judgment they don't have jobs. Sorry but wait it out and go to court. Don't give them one extra day when evicted. You may need to hire security next time you go there, someone big and exmilitary? These people are dangerous.

Updated about 1 month ago

Had your first hearing, that's good. Is there a church nearby, a school, a senior facility? Search for neighbor allies who are not pot friendly, let them call the police. Ninety nine plants is a commercial grow and the neighbors smell it. Post the address (not here I like the anonymous blog site idea where you have all their faces and rooftop actions) maybe someone will take their profits? Sister get your war paint on. Who ever told you you cannot sell is wrong. You can sell. Thousands of properties have been sold this past year site unseen. Get out your old photos, if you need a bulldog realtor recommendation call me. You will be able to get 99.9% of the value and kick the renters down the road to new owner, just disclose - renters are terrible.

I have been there and done that. I had a similar situation at an SFR I owned in Redding, CA. There are a few things that you need to assume to be fact: (FYI My wife is a bankruptcy attorney and also deals in real estate)

  • It will take a year to get them out;
  • They are not paying for the attorney. There are groups of attorneys that provide free services to tenants. They are radical and will do everything to cost you money in attorney fees in hopes of settling and paying their fees;
  • When they leave, your house will be destroyed entirely and unlivable;
  • You will never collect a penny from them for back rent or damages, so offering to forgive rent is meaningless. Once out, they will file bankruptcy, and your claim goes away. You can never collect anything;
  • Landlords have no rights in California;
  • Expect to spend a substantial amount to get them out finally;
  • Your attorney is limited in what they can do, but they do have good advice on what you can do

What to do? Cash talks, rent forgiveness, does not because they will never pay the back rent, so basically, you forgive nothing. I had an attorney, and they agreed to my actions but had no knowledge of it (plausible deniability). The attorney can't do it because if the tenant is represented, they must go through their attorney. Those rules do not bind me; I can contact the tenant directly.

What I did, I got $10,000 in $100 bills. I met with the tenant, showed them the pile of money, and said, "this is yours if you move in 10 days and sign these forms. The forms were a 1542 waiver and dismissal of their countersuit, substitution of attorney (substituting their attorney for Pro-Per). I told them that once they are out, I will hand them the cash. I mentioned that if their attorney gets involved, the deal is off. It worked. Cash talks, and cash is king. In your case, it may be more than 10K that is required. I filed the dismissal and substitution with the court. Their attorney was pissed and threatened me, but nothing he could do; he no longer represented them. I even offered to provide U-HAUL trucks and drivers.

What they didn't know is that I transferred all utilities into my name. As the property owner, I can do that. I did have to pay their delinquent accounts, but now I have control of the utilities.

I spent about 20K total in getting them out. Make your sure liability and fire insurance is current.

This shall pass and you will become more knowledgeable. Don't allow a bad experience damage your real estate plans. I had a similar experience and I am glad I didn't give up on my Real Estate plans.

Like Jeff Willis said, "make your liability and fire insurance current". Sending good energy your way! 

Well, if I had 10 000$, I would have considered trying keys for cash. Not only I don't have that kind of money (Covid ruined us), but I am also dealing with major health issues (chronic cancer) that require expenses. 

We have three types of insurances on the house. So if they destroy the house, hopefully one of the three insurances will cover some of it. 

The tenants seem to want our house as there are four generations living in the house (opposed to only two being on the lease) and it will be hard for them to find a landlord that would accept that many people in a home. 

We cannot sell either. I have no hope covering any penny from them ever, simply hope that we will be able to get our property back. 

@Adriana Arnold

I feel for you, but you need to determine what you want to do.  Look at it as a business decision, do a cost basis analysis of everything. Take emotion out of it, it is a business. The tenants want your house because they can live for free. Your job is to get them out, even if they have to live on the street or in a park. That is not your worry. If that concerns you, then just stop now and let them have the place. Keep in mind, you will spend far more than 10K in attorney fees. 

There are people that will buy your house with problematic and non-paying tenants in possession. These folks live in the wholesale market and will pay 30-60 cents on the dollar of its current value, which is lower if the house is trashed. If you have a mortgage and the LTV is above that, then this probably won't work.

There are many ways to handle this, but is the dollars required to do it, worth it?  If it was me, I would be getting a bit creative.

At this point, I would rather pay a lawyer than accept to be extorted by individuals who have threatened my life and started a marijuana farm on my property  especially considering that as at this point, their demands are unrealistic. So right now, in terms of being cost effective, it is cheaper to pay a lawyer than give into tenants demands. 

I am a criminal justice/sociology professor, and from an ethical perspective( if it even means anything in a landlord/tenant context) it goes against my principals to reward  disproportionally (pay) deviance and crime. 

@Adriana Arnold here is two options:

First Option

See if their attorney can convince them to apply for COVID rent relief. The federal government handed out over $100 billion to states to pay back rent, even a full years worth. If you can get the $25,000 then it gives you more options. You can offer some portion of the money back to them to leave. I normally don't support paying thieves, but in this case it may be your best option. Even if you choose not to give them the money, the $25,000 could cover legal fees and carrying costs to fight this battle.

Second Option

Use the power of social media and the news media. By gaining public support, it puts pressure on politicians, police and even the tenants. There are usually email or phone hotlines to suggest stories. See if a local news station will cover the story. Some may even knock on the door or film the story out front. Odds are good that the tenants names and their attorney are public records, so anyone covering the story could release that information. When an attorney tells you that threatening to cut your throat is no big deal, my guess is their family and friends would not be too impressed. A police department that does nothing to help you doesn't look great on TV and we all know police are struggling with image issues. Politicians who create and anti-landlord climate have to defend their actions. 

Discuss this all with your attorney before doing anything. Most importantly, be aware this isn't your fault, it is California. More specifically the politicians who have been destroying the state for years. This kind of nonsense is why the governor is being recalled. I would share your story via email to your elected officials. Ask them if it is ok that a person with chronic cancer, has no money, has been physically threatened, can't even live in their own home for at least another 6 months. 

i guess you got some pro renters that were well prepared for this. from reading your posts, it appears (at least to me), that their lawyer is a bulldog and yours a shih tzu. what is your lawyer saying to all this nonsense?

i guess they did their prepping reading stuff like this: https://caltenantlaw.com/unlaw...

"Summary Judgment is the landlord’s only hope against a jury trial. A Summary Judgment motion is greatly abused by landlord lawyers and the UD judges, so as to skip all the fair trial nonsense and get right to your demise. A summary judgment is designed only to eliminate cases with no possibility of winning. The landlord would have to show that they did everything right, and that none of your defenses have any chance at all. If there were 1,000 witnesses, photographs, and documents against you, and only your claims of what you know in opposition, you should win, because a jury would believe you and not them.

In deciding this motion, the judge is supposed to ignore everything the landlord claims and consider only what the tenant claims. The judge cannot “weigh” the evidence, or assess “credibility” of the tenant. When the judge rules on the summary judgment motion, he/she has to explain every disputed point and how the ruling was made. All doubts are required to be resolved in your favor, no matter how unlikely the judge may think they are. Unfortunately, the pro-landlord UD judges are more than happy to grant these motions, defy the law, and crush the tenants’ chances for a fair trial where they would have won. We are still working on that."

Originally posted by @Jeff Willis :

You will never collect a penny from them for back rent or damages, so offering to forgive rent is meaningless. Once out, they will file bankruptcy, and your claim goes away. You can never collect anything;

There is no guarantee that even if they filed bankruptcy that the debt would be wiped away by the court. She would get to tell her side and judges aren't too keen on rewarding people for ill-gotten gains. 

Perhaps she never collects a penny, but you never know. Collection agencies exist for a reason. Judgments last 10+10 years. That's a long time. Young scumbags can become better citizens with real jobs where their wages can be attached. They get married to a person with a real job and that paycheck gets dumped into a household bank account. Bank accounts can be levied. They inherit assets that can be liened. Maybe they need a loan and need this off their credit report and will pay all or even a fraction of it to get it removed. 

Get the names of everyone there. File suit naming all of them, not just those on the lease. Who caused the damage? Who cares, let them fight it out and point fingers or let the court assess damages to some/all of them. 

Originally posted by @Greg M. :
Originally posted by @Jeff Willis:

You will never collect a penny from them for back rent or damages, so offering to forgive rent is meaningless. Once out, they will file bankruptcy, and your claim goes away. You can never collect anything;

There is no guarantee that even if they filed bankruptcy that the debt would be wiped away by the court. She would get to tell her side and judges aren't too keen on rewarding people for ill-gotten gains. 

Perhaps she never collects a penny, but you never know. Collection agencies exist for a reason. Judgments last 10+10 years. That's a long time. Young scumbags can become better citizens with real jobs where their wages can be attached. They get married to a person with a real job and that paycheck gets dumped into a household bank account. Bank accounts can be levied. They inherit assets that can be liened. Maybe they need a loan and need this off their credit report and will pay all or even a fraction of it to get it removed. 

Get the names of everyone there. File suit naming all of them, not just those on the lease. Who caused the damage? Who cares, let them fight it out and point fingers or let the court assess damages to some/all of them. 

 I totally agree. When people say "you can never collect anything", that is not true. It is an assumption people make. Most the time landlords don't even try collecting money. Usually because they don't know how. To your point, when people decide to get their life back on track, they are forced to deal with mistakes from their past. A bank doesn't want to lend to someone who is being chased by collections. With all the people living there, one of them is bound to turn their life around. Even if none of them do, $25,000 is worth trying to collect. If it was $100 of course move on.

Thank you all for your wise advice and input! 

We have applied for rent relief program but they did not, which according to our lawyer is another  tactic to increase our losses and hold us hostage. 

They are not denying having six extra occupants, arguing that since they were able to deposit two money orders onto my account before I closed it, I have waived my rights to evict. These deposits were returned to them with a letter stating that the bank was not to accept them and that we have not waived our eviction rights. This is, so far, their only defense. 

What really disturbs me is that their lawyer on his response made a series of inaccurate claims such as saying that we have received notices of violation of habitability by a public health inspector. I have contacted every possible public agency inquiring about any notice and every agency  stated that there are no records of any inspection. Edison told me that they have problems with the tenants due to their overconsumption of electricity. We had to change the electrical panel and keep adding additional lines, now we know why. Another claim their lawyer made is that they paid at least 25% of their rent from September to January, which they did not. 

He also claimed that our property is not rent control exempt, which it is and I had sent them a notice to inform them about it. 

Their lawyer also claimed that we are retaliating against the tenants because they complained about leaky roof, complain after which we contracted within 48h a licensed roofer and went to inspect and at that occasion discovered about all the people living at the house. The roof was fixed. 

I plan on suing the sons for the damage created on the roof, the electrical system and the backyard as I have evidence, from their social media accounts, that they have created that damage. 

The city inspector that went to check the property for marijuana that of course was removed, also asked me if the tenants were running an adult care business from home as he had witnessed elderly people come in and out of the house in multiple occasions. Another liability headache to this about. 

My lawyer was so shocked by their refusal to take our settlement offer that she asked their lawyer if they maybe wanted that we also include a winning lottery ticket into the settlement. 

Originally posted by @Adriana Arnold :

Hello All, 

I am brand new to BiggerPockets and find it to be a great place comprised of helpful advice and expertise. I am a landlord of a single family home in California that has run my property as a charity rather than a business and I am paying for it now. I rented my single family home to a couple on a Month to Month rental agreement  that said that they had three kids in college and none of them were on the lease. They were overall late on rent, the rent is 40% below the market value, they would be  complaining about issues but never being available for the contractors to come and fix those issues.....

Covid comes and they stop paying and would pay 20% of the rent every three to four months. This January, we get a message from them that the roof is leaky and  after having given a 24h notice we arrange for a professional roofer to inspect the roof two days later.My husband shows up at the house with the roofer and one of the sons comes out and tells my husband that he can't come in but only the roofer. So my mother-in-law who was also there said that she is about to call the sheriff and the son lets them in. 

During this visit, we discover that in addition to original tenants, there are 6 extra people living there.  It's a 3 bedroom house. The two sons, sons' girlfriends, one year old child and an elderly woman, mother of the female tenant. The kitchen has a bed in it, and the rooms have blankets over furniture and no light. I immediately told my husband that I will contact a lawyer to start the eviction procedure for unauthorized occupants.The tenants' lawyer responds, and in his response fills out every box in the denials section, from habitability issues to retaliation passing  rent control, etc. and of course ask for a jury trial. 

Our court date was today, and we were informed three days ago that a son of the tenants is making a tutorial for marijuana farm cultivation in our backyard. We receive 25 short videos of him going step by step from taking marijuana plants from the kitchen to using welding generator to start building the farm structure in the backyard. The city representative went to the house but they didn't open the door so he left a notice of violation on the door and informed us about it. We wanted the city to dismantle the structure as all this was on social media in public view possibly making our home a target of marijuana related home invasion, or any other crime. Today, the city officer went their with the sheriff and all the marijuana was removed and the tenants were very friendly and compliant. Their criminal backgrounds were clean. Of course, they had two days to remove all the incriminating evidence. 

Today we show up in court, and our lawyer tells us that considering the backlog in courts, it may take up to 6 months to actually get the jury trial and that the tenants are holding us hostages so we can keep losing money, we should make them a settlement offer. As we need the house so we can move in as we live currently in one room within my husband's father's house where I teach my classes online while my kids are on Zoom at the same time, we said that we are willing to forgive $25 000 rental debt and give them two extra months to leave. Their lawyer said that they may consider our offer if we give them an extra year of rent free stay at the house!!!! So pretty much two and a half year of free rent to four generations of a family that has no right per lease to be there.  

Their lawyer refuses the offer arguing that since they were able to deposit $500 in money order onto my account we have waived our eviction rights..of course, I had returned their money orders with a letter stating that we have not waived our rights to evict and I closed my bank account.  Then the lawyer says that growing marijuana is not a big deal, and that being threatened by one of the sons is not a big deal either, the son told us that he knew where we lived and made the sign of cutting one's throat while looking at my husband.  

Our lawyer said that in 30 years of her career, she hasn't seen anything like this and that marijuana farm tutorial on its own deserves to earn them an automatic eviction, but since they asked for a jury trial the judge has to approve it.  

I am wondering if any of you had any similar experience and what advice would you have on how to deal with this situation? 

Thank you! 


I was in this exact same scenario, maybe even a little bit worse.  What you need to know is the state of California does not give a grain of rice (sub "grain of rice" for your favorite F-word) about you.  You can get them out but you will need a case so tight that even O.J Simpson's attorney could not help them.

Option #1

3 day notice to pay or quit for the current month of rent.  Do not mention the back pay as it opens up too many doors.  With the eviction suspension going on it will not kick in until the suspension is lifted.  Be sure to state form of payment (give 2 options), Who to pay, Where to pay.

If they pay the rent:

Your strongest case is that they have adults living there who are not on the lease.  Lets go with that. Here is what you will need.

Step 1

The names of the original tenants.

The names of the tenants OVER 18 who are living there and are NOT on the lease aka the illegal tenants.

The dates and times the illegal tenants enter and exit the property.

Proof of the dates and times the illegal enter and exit.

You will need a few months of proof as they will say they are visiting or some bs.

 Step 2

Serve a 3 day notice to perform or quit.

List the first and last names of the adults who have been illegally staying there.

State how long they have been illegally live there based on your proof.

Make sure you state the names of those who are legally staying there as they are the ones who you are issuing the perform or quit to.

(This thing must be air tight.  If your lawyer screws it up your case is dead.  The Judge will throw it out.)

Step 3

Once it's served, on day 4 start gathering more proof that the illegal tenants have not moved out.

Once you have enough proof that they have not performed it's time to go to court.

Their lawyer will claim that the individuals stated on the notice do live at the premises and you are bulling them and you have been spying on them and all this other bs.  Make sure your proof is air tight.

At the time you present your case offer $1,000 for the keys to avoid the court case.  If your case is air tight the judge may advise their lawyer to accept the offer.


Based on your story I think this is your best chance to avoid cash for keys.

@Adriana Arnold ma’am you should be able to get them on that alone. I’ve actually been charged with communicating threats. That misdemeanor carries like a 60 day jail term by itself ( in my state.)

It is also a crime in your state too. Penal code section 422 in California. (Google searched it)