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Law Offices of
Susan Marchant Angel
810 E Street
San Rafael, CA 94901



Landlord Law Procedures

We do evictions for an inexpensive flat fee; that's important because you save on out-of-pocket costs and you know exactly what it will cost (unless the matter is a contested eviction

We take each step as fast as the law allows it to be taken; that is more important because you minimize lost rental income.  Figure it out - at rent of $1,500 per month, you are losing $50 for EVERY DAY ($350 per week) the tenant doesn't pay rent.

Select which area you would like to know more about





20 to 39 days is the usual total time to evict a tenant, starting from the day you first contact us, if the tenant does not contest the eviction.  More than one-half of tenants fall into this category.

31 to 59 days is the normal total time to evict a tenant who contests the eviction by filing an Answer at court and requesting a trial.   

Delays beyond the above estimates are rare, but can be caused by the following:  unknown persons occupying the premises, tenants avoiding service of process, tenants demanding a jury trial, and other delaying tactics.



Step Procedure Time Cost*

Prepare and arrange service of THREE-DAY NOTICE TO PAY RENT OR QUIT.  This can be done by you or us, and served by you or any adult.   If you are not certain of the identity of any person living in the property, additional procedures are required.


1 day

Free if you do it

$300 if we do it. $400 for HUD/ Section 8/ commercial  notices. Plus process server's fee, if used (usually $85 per tenant).


Wait three days after date served.  If third day falls on a weekend or holiday then tenant has until the end (midnight) of the next business
day to pay you the full amount of rent due or move out.  During this time you must accept the rent if the whole amount due is offered to
you.  You do not have to accept any smaller amount, and if you do, you must issue a new Three-Day Notice reflecting the remaining

This notice must be served on each tenant separately.  You must either hand it to each tenant, or if any tenant is not there, tape it to the
front door and mail (regular first-class mail) a copy to each tenant.  (If the lease requires certified mail, you may need to do that also.)


3 days


Attorney prepares and files SUMMONS and COMPLAINT.  This is the Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit, asking the court to order the tenant out of the premises.  We need a $1,300 deposit ($1,600 for commercial or $1,400 for HUD/ Section 8 tenancies), of which $900 is for fees and $400 is for a deposit towards costs.

1 day

$900 fees ($1,200 for commercial or $1000 for HUD/ Section 8 tenancies) plus $240 court Filing fee if rent owed is under $10,000, or $385 if over $10,000.*


Process server serves SUMMONS and COMPLAINT on each tenant. Usually served the same day as filed if tenants are home.  (We don't use the Marshal or Sheriff, but the best private process server to ensure prompt service).

If tenant evades service, which is unusual, an additional court order will be required to allow service by posting, at additional expense ($250 in fees) and time (16 to 20 days).


0 to 1 day

Process server's fee (usually $85 to $100 per tenant)*

5. Each tenant has five days after being personally served with the Summons and Complaint to file a formal Answer with the Court.  Serving a Prejudgment Claim of Right to Possession allows an additional five days for an unnamed tenant to file an Answer.  The date of service doesn't count, and legal holidays don't count.  If the fifth day falls on a weekend or holiday then they have until the end of the next business day.  (This explains why serving the tenants on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday is all the same.)  Service by handing it to someone else does not count as personal delivery.  If properly "sub-served" (handed to someone other than the tenant) the tenant gets an extra ten days to answer. 6 to 16 days  


Tenant fails to file a formal Answer at court in time.  Attorney files a REQUEST TO ENTER DEFAULT for Possession of the Premises, and obtains a "Clerk's Judgment for Restitution of the Premises."

1 day

No additional charge


Attorney obtains from Court Clerk a Writ of Possession, which Attorney takes to the Sheriff, along with Sheriff's Instructions.

0 to 1 day

Court Writ fee: $25;
Sheriff's fee: $125.*


Sheriff goes out and posts property with a Five-Day Notice warning of eviction.  (If tenant moves during the five days, you may get $22 of the $125 Sheriff's fee back.)

3 to 5 days

No additional charge


Wait five days after Sheriff's notice is posted.  Sheriff calls owner or manager to verify that tenant is still in property (you should keep checking) and to make an appointment to meet the owner or manager and a locksmith (you arrange ahead) at the property that day.  Sheriff meets you there and physically removes them (but not their possessions) from the premises.  This occurs on the fifth day after the Sheriff posts the notice, but if that day is a weekend or holiday, usually the Sheriff will wait until the next business day.

5 days

No additional charge



TOTAL TIME:                       20 to 39 days





TOTAL OTHER CHARGES:      Approximately $400 court costs plus process service (usually $85 to $100 per tenant per serve)*


NOTE:  If you want to also obtain a court judgment for the rent and attorney's fees and costs (which cannot include damages to the premises), we can obtain this for you for an ADDITIONAL $250.*


* Settlement Negotiations and Agreements are charged hourly in addition to the above. See below for rates. *Contact us for updated prices. Prices on website subject to change without notice.



If the tenant Answers the complaint and contests the eviction, our rates become hourly, and all steps are the same except step 6, which goes like this:

Step Procedure Time Cost
6a. Tenant files an Answer with the court.  Attorney immediately files MEMORANDUM TO SET CIVIL CASE FOR TRIAL.  About 10 days later court will assign a trial date, which will be about 10 days after that notice (about 20 days total since the Memorandum to Set was filed).  (We need another $1000 deposit at this time.) 1 day $390 per hour (typically about one hour) From the time the tenant files a response to the eviction, hourly rates apply to all work on matter
6b. Wait approximately 20 days for trial date.  On trial date, Attorney and property manager or owner (whoever handled the tenancy) go to trial and present case and get judgment (hopefully) and then continue with step 7. 20 days

$390 per hour (typically about one hour)




TOTAL TIME FOR CONTESTED EVICTION:                           

31 to 59 days


$900 ($1,200 for commercial and $1000 for HUD/ Section 8) plus hourly rates * once answer is filed (typically 1 to 3 hours total)


Approximately $400 court costs plus process service (usually $85 to $100 per tenant per serve)



NOTE:  If case goes to trial and we win, judgment will include money judgment for rent and attorney's fees (if available under lease terms) and costs, at no extra charge.


*Hourly rates for Attorneys are $390 for Susan Marchant.  Hourly rates for paralegals are $100 to $175.  Whenever possible, we use the least expensive employee with the appropriate expertise for each task in the eviction process. In no event will the charges exceed what it would have cost for Susan Marchant Angel to perform all the work herself.

. *Contact us for updated prices. Prices on website subject to change without notice.



You do not have a legal right to evict anyone until you properly serve them with a correctly filled out notice. Ask us if you have any questions about how to do this.  Also, be absolutely sure you name and serve every person residing in the premises who is over age 18, or you may find yourself starting again at the beginning.  If you are not sure, let us know and we will advise you on the extra steps necessary.




We do not charge you by the hour for uncontested evictions.  It has been our experience that clients feel more comfortable knowing in advance exactly how much we will charge for the eviction.  We charge a total flat fee of $900 for an uncontested eviction ($1,200 for commercial or $1000 for HUD/ Section 8 premises), plus the court filing fee of $240, if rent owed is less than $10,000, or $385 if rent owed is over $10,000, and the process server's fee ($85 - $100 per tenant unless tenant is unusually hard to serve).  In addition, you will pay $25 to the Court to issue the Writ of Possession and $125 to the Sheriff for the actual eviction.  (You will get $22 of the Sheriff's fee back if tenant moves out before the end.)

However, if we enter into settlement negotiations with the tenant or the tenant's attorney, even if no Answer has been filed, we charge hourly*  for negotiations and for preparing any necessary settlement agreements, such as Stipulated Judgments.  We also charge hourly for all time spent on matters pertaining to the tenant’s deposit or personal possessions.

If the eviction is contested (meaning the tenant files an Answer or other pleading in court disputing your right to evict him or her), our charges become hourly.*  Because we handle so many evictions, we do not need to learn the law at your expense, so the trial preparation and trial appearance typically take between one and two hours total.  The content of the tenant's Answer pretty much determines the complexity of the trial.




There are usually two ways to lose at trial:

1)         If the Three-Day Notice given was not exactly properly filled out (usually because it asks for late fees or interest or other amounts that are not technically "rent" or doesn't say for what dates the rent is owed), or not properly served, then it will be thrown out on a technicality.  If you prepared your own notice, unless you are sure you prepared and served it correctly, it is safer to do a new Three-Day Notice.  (Note:  you may be able to ultimately recover late fees and interest, as well as damages to the property, but that requires further legal steps after the eviction.)

2)         If the tenant convinces the judge the property is not "habitable" you may lose.  (Usually not applicable in commercial premises.) That is to say, the place needs significant repairs of which you were aware and you refused or neglected to make them.  If there is any chance the tenant will claim this, even if untrue, it is very important you tell us this before the trial date.

Barring one of those two disasters, you will probably get your judgment evicting the tenants.  Our experience is that frequently tenants do not even show up at the trial, giving you an easy win.



Rarely, tenants use one or more of the following techniques to further delay their eviction:  file a Motion to Quash Service of the Summons; file a Demurrer to the Complaint; appeal the judgment; claim someone lives in the premises who was not named in the eviction; apply to the court for up to a 40-day stay (delay) of the judgment based on "hardship"; or declare bankruptcy.  Fortunately, these ploys are uncommon and usually not successful, but you should be aware that any of these procedures could delay the eviction by a few weeks, and that some additional legal fees would be required.  Also, if the tenant leaves personal belongings on the premises, you will have to store them somewhere (not necessarily to the premises) for 15 days, and you cannot "hold them hostage" against money owed



Collecting money judgments from tenants is usually extremely difficult.  We do not do Collections ourselves because we have found that the extremely slim chance of recovering any money from most tenants does not justify you spending more in legal fees.  (In other words, it is just "throwing good money after bad" in most cases.)  If you have reason to believe you can find an evicted tenant and collect the judgment from them (by attaching wages, bank accounts or other assets), we can refer you to attorneys who can assist you.  If, on the other hand, the chances of collecting do not justify the costs and your time involved in such a procedure, you might be able to find a collection agency, who will attempt to collect for you. They charge a percentage (usually 35 to 50 percent) of the money collected, and they report judgments to the major credit reporting services, so the judgment will at least damage the tenant's credit rating unless it is paid.




Before we start the eviction, we need the following (see form attached for your convenience):

1. Copy of the Three-Day Notice (or a request for me to prepare it).

2. Original of a proper Proof of Service of Three-Day Notice for each tenant (unless we are arranging service).

3. Copy of lease or rental agreement (if case goes to trial, original will be required). If no written agreement, please note terms of tenancy, date tenancy began, etc.

4. Any changes (rent increases, etc.) in the rental terms since the beginning of the tenancy, including date and method of change.

5. Rental history and dates for which rent is owed.

6. Physical description of tenants, place of employment, and any other information that might be useful for serving them with the Summons and Complaint.

7. Original signed retainer agreement
(residential or commercial). Keep a copy for yourself.

8. A check or cash for $
900 for attorney fees ($1200 for commercial), and a check or cash for $400 for deposit toward costs. (If we are to prepare and serve the Three-Day Notice, add another $300 in fees and another $85 per tenant for process service.)*


The most important thing in evictions is whether each step is taken as soon as it is legally possible to take it.  We take each step at the earliest possible time.

We will prepare your Three-Day Notice or eviction lawsuit immediately upon receipt of all the above items, so not one extra day of rent is lost to you.

Please Contact Us (415-453-5000) if you have any questions we have not answered or if you need any advice or assistance with an eviction or any landlord-tenant matter. We look forward to being of service to you.



 *Contact us for updated prices. Prices on website subject to change without notice.

Copyright 2010 ~ Susan Marchant Angel, Attorney at Law