What Is an Illegal Eviction in California?

As California’s largest tenant’s rights law firm, Tenant Law Group has represented countless tenants who suffered wrongful evictions by landlords using a wide range of illegal tactics. That’s why we only represent renters, and why we never represent landlords.  

California law protects tenants from being illegally evicted or mistreated by owners of rental property. To better inform tenants about their legal rights, we’ve created this list of illegal eviction tactics barred by California law. 

If you think you are the victim of an illegal or wrongful eviction, contact Tenant Law Group for help. We will help you hold your landlord accountable for violating your rights as a California tenant.  

What’s a Wrongful or Illegal Eviction in California? 

A lawful eviction in California is one that observes the formal procedures required by California law and is only undertaken when a landlord reasonably exercises their rights in the appropriate circumstances. For example, if a renter fails or refuses to pay rent without a legal excuse, a landlord can follow the lease terms and the law to notify the tenant to vacate the unit. The same can be true when a tenant violates other obligations owed to the property owner and other tenants.  

But landlords throughout California frequently ignore the law and their own lease agreements when they want to force one of their tenants to move.  

Owner Move-In or Relative Move-In Evictions 

San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and other California cities enacted ordinances that permit a landlord to evict a tenant if the landlord or their close relative will be moving into the unit. But each of these municipal ordinances requires the new occupant to move in within three months and to continue living in the unit for at least 36 months (24 months in Los Angeles).  

This is one of the rules most abused by landlords. They lie about who is moving in because they want a new unrelated tenant to move in and pay higher rent.  

These evictions are illegal if all the required conditions are not met. In addition to a minimum length of occupancy by the landlord or relative in the rental unit, the ordinances impose many restrictions. For example, San Francisco’s rule prevents tenants aged 60, who are disabled and have lived in the building for ten years, or who are catastrophically ill and have lived there for five years from being evicted through an owner move-in or relative move-in eviction. 

If you were evicted because the owner claimed they or their relative needed to move in, contact the Tenant Law Group to determine if your rights were violated.  

Illegal Eviction Notices 

When a tenant receives an eviction notice in California, the form of the notice and the number of days a tenant is given to vacate are very important. Landlords must state the reason for the eviction in the notice to quit. When a property owner fails to state a reason for the eviction, history has revealed that the unstated reason is often 

 improper. The eviction may be in retaliation for a tenant’s lawful complaint, or because of illegal discrimination. 

Tenant Constructively Evicted by Deplorable Conditions 

When a renter is forced to live with plumbing, heating, or electrical fixtures that don’t work properly, or with leaks, sewage, mold, or rodent infestation, the tenant is not required to subject themselves or their family members to such unlivable conditions. A landlord who fails to reasonably repair such a unit illegally evicts the tenant and is liable for the tenant’s moving costs and other physical and emotional damages.  

The same is true if a tenant is forced to vacate their rent-controlled unit because of the owner’s failure to prevent harassment of the tenant by other renters in the building.  

Rent-Controlled Apartment Not Offered to Same Tenant Following Accidental Damage 

When a fire, flood, natural disaster, or need for major repairs requires a tenant to vacate a rent-controlled apartment, the landlord is required by law to offer that tenant an opportunity to return to the same unit following the completion of repairs. The owner’s failure to notify the tenant of the apartment’s availability at the same rent violates California law. 

Ellis Act Eviction Violation 

The Ellis Act is a California law that permits landlords to evict all building tenants if the owner intends to take the building out of the rental market. The law includes many very specific requirements with which the landlord must comply. Tenants who do vacate will have the right to return to their unit if rentals resume within ten years if they notify the building owner and the Rent Board of their new address and contact information. This right of first refusal entitles them to reoccupy their unit at the same rent plus any increase allowed by law.  


Other illegal eviction tactics are also practiced by dishonest, negligent, and abusive property owners throughout California. Tenant Law Group is California’s largest law firm devoted exclusively to fighting for tenants’ rights and tenants’ dignity by holding landlords and property owners legally accountable. 

Get the compensation you deserve when your landlord violates the law. 

Contact Tenant Law Group today: 

Get in Touch. We're Here to Help.

To get started, share with us some information about your landlord tenant issue and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Although your information is 100% safe and secure, submitting an inquiry does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

    How did you first hear about us?