Dealing with a tenant who won’t move out after you purchase a home can be extremely frustrating. If you’ve inherited a tenant along with your new house in California, you’ll need to follow the proper legal process to remove them.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: You must serve the tenant with a written 30-day or 60-day notice to vacate, depending on the situation. This starts the legal eviction process. You cannot force the tenant out or change locks without a court order.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss the required notices, the eviction process, and tips for getting the tenant to leave voluntarily.

Serving Proper Notice To Vacate

30-day notice

If you find yourself in a situation where a tenant refuses to leave your newly purchased house in California, serving a proper notice to vacate is the first step towards resolving the issue. In California, the most common notice is the 30-day notice to vacate.

This notice informs the tenant that they have 30 days to vacate the property. It is important to note that the 30-day notice may vary depending on the specific circumstances, so it is advisable to consult with a legal professional or refer to the California Department of Consumer Affairs for guidance.

60-day notice

In certain situations, such as when the tenant has been residing in the property for more than one year, a 60-day notice to vacate may be required. This extended notice period allows the tenant more time to find alternative housing arrangements.

Again, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements and consult with a legal professional if needed.

Contents of the notice

When serving a notice to vacate, it is crucial to include specific information to ensure its validity. The notice should clearly state the date it was served, the reason for termination, and the date by which the tenant must vacate the premises.

It is also advisable to include your contact information and any additional instructions or terms that may be relevant to the situation. Providing a clear and comprehensive notice will help avoid any confusion or disputes down the line.

Proper service of notice

Once you have prepared the notice, it is important to serve it properly to the tenant. In California, the notice can be served by personal delivery, leaving a copy at the tenant’s residence and mailing a copy, or by certified mail with a return receipt.

It is crucial to follow the proper procedures to ensure that the notice is legally valid and enforceable. Keep in mind that it is recommended to keep a record of how and when the notice was served in case it needs to be referenced later.

For more detailed information on serving notice to vacate in California, you can visit the official website of the California Department of Consumer Affairs at

Filing an Unlawful Detainer Lawsuit

If you find yourself in a situation where a tenant refuses to leave your property after buying a house in California, you may need to take legal action by filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit. This is the most common legal process used to evict a tenant who is not complying with the terms of their lease or rental agreement.

Serve summons and complaint

The first step in filing an unlawful detainer lawsuit is to serve the tenant with a summons and complaint. This legal document officially notifies the tenant that they are being sued and explains the reasons for the eviction.

It is important to follow the proper procedures for serving these documents, as any mistakes could delay the eviction process.

According to California law, the summons and complaint must be served personally to the tenant, or if they cannot be personally served, they can be left with someone of suitable age and discretion at the tenant’s residence.

It is recommended to hire a professional process server to ensure that the documents are served correctly.

Tenant’s response

Once the tenant has been served with the summons and complaint, they have a certain amount of time to respond. In California, tenants have five calendar days to file a response with the court. If the tenant fails to respond within this timeframe, you may be able to obtain a default judgment in your favor.

If the tenant does file a response, they will have the opportunity to present their side of the story in court. It is important to be prepared with any evidence or documentation that supports your case for eviction.

Court procedure

After the tenant files a response, the court will schedule a hearing to review the case. Both parties will have the opportunity to present their arguments and evidence. It is highly recommended to consult with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law to navigate the court procedure effectively.

During the hearing, the judge will evaluate the evidence and make a decision. If the judge rules in your favor, they will issue a judgment for possession of the property. However, it is important to note that the tenant may still have the right to appeal the decision, which could prolong the eviction process.

Eviction judgment

Once you have obtained a judgment for possession of the property, you can proceed with the eviction process. However, it is crucial to follow the specific procedures outlined by California law to avoid any legal complications.

It is recommended to work with a professional eviction service or sheriff’s office to carry out the eviction. They will handle the physical removal of the tenant from the property, ensuring that it is done in a legal and orderly manner.

Remember, the eviction process can be complex and time-consuming. It is important to familiarize yourself with California’s landlord-tenant laws and seek professional legal advice to ensure that you follow the correct procedures and protect your rights as a property owner.

Eviction Process With Sheriff

Obtain writ of possession

If a tenant refuses to leave the property after buying a house in California, the first step in the eviction process is to obtain a writ of possession. This is a legal document that authorizes the sheriff to remove the tenant from the premises.

To obtain a writ of possession, the landlord must file an unlawful detainer lawsuit in the appropriate court. It is recommended to seek legal advice and assistance during this process to ensure all necessary steps are followed correctly.

Schedule lockout

Once the landlord has obtained the writ of possession, they can schedule a lockout with the sheriff’s office. The lockout is a process where the sheriff physically removes the tenant from the property and changes the locks.

It is important to note that the landlord cannot personally perform the lockout, as it must be done by the sheriff to ensure a legal and orderly eviction process.

Remove tenant’s belongings

After the lockout, the tenant’s belongings will still be inside the property. The landlord is responsible for removing these belongings in a careful and respectful manner. California law requires the landlord to store the tenant’s belongings for a certain period of time, typically 15 days, and provide the tenant with information on how to retrieve their belongings.

If the tenant does not claim their belongings within the specified time, the landlord can dispose of them according to the law.

Change the locks

Once the tenant has been removed from the property and their belongings have been handled according to the law, the landlord should change the locks to secure the property. This is an important step to protect the new homeowner’s rights and prevent any unauthorized entry.

It is advisable to hire a professional locksmith to ensure the locks are properly installed and provide the highest level of security.

It is important to note that the eviction process can be complex and time-consuming. Landlords should familiarize themselves with the specific laws and regulations in their area and seek legal advice to ensure they are following the correct procedures.

The California Courts website ( provides valuable resources and information on the eviction process in California.

Getting The Tenant To Leave Voluntarily

When faced with a tenant who refuses to leave after buying a house in California, it can be a challenging situation to navigate. However, there are several strategies you can employ to encourage the tenant to leave voluntarily, without resorting to legal action.

Cash for keys agreement

One effective approach is to offer the tenant a “cash for keys” agreement. This involves providing a financial incentive for the tenant to vacate the property willingly. The amount offered can vary depending on the circumstances, but it is typically a negotiated sum that covers moving expenses or provides a financial cushion for finding a new place to live.

By offering this agreement, you can motivate the tenant to leave on their own terms, saving both parties time, money, and potential legal headaches.

Offer alternative housing assistance

In some cases, the tenant may be reluctant to leave because they are concerned about finding a new place to live. To address this concern, you can offer alternative housing assistance. This could involve connecting the tenant with local resources, such as rental agencies or affordable housing programs.

By demonstrating your willingness to help them secure a new home, you may be able to persuade them to voluntarily vacate the property.

Appeal to empathy

Another approach is to appeal to the tenant’s empathy. Explain your situation as the new homeowner and the challenges you are facing with the tenant’s refusal to leave. Share any personal hardships or financial burdens that may arise from the tenant’s unwillingness to cooperate.

By appealing to their sense of compassion, you may be able to encourage them to reconsider and voluntarily vacate the premises.

Threaten lawsuit for damages

If all else fails, you may need to resort to stronger measures. Threatening a lawsuit for damages can be a last resort option to compel the tenant to leave. Keep in mind that this should only be done if you have legitimate grounds for a lawsuit, such as the tenant violating the terms of the lease agreement or causing significant damage to the property.

Be sure to consult with a legal professional to understand the specific laws and regulations in your area before proceeding with this course of action.

Remember, it is always advisable to try and resolve the situation amicably before pursuing legal action. Open communication, empathy, and a willingness to find mutually beneficial solutions can go a long way in getting the tenant to leave voluntarily.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Don’t attempt self-eviction

When faced with a tenant who refuses to leave after buying a house in California, it can be frustrating and tempting to take matters into your own hands. However, attempting self-eviction is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

In California, landlords are required to follow specific legal procedures to evict a tenant, and taking matters into your own hands can lead to legal consequences. Instead, seek legal advice and follow the proper eviction process.

Document everything

To protect yourself and ensure a smooth eviction process, it is crucial to document everything. Keep a record of all interactions with the tenant, including any written or verbal communication. This includes notices, agreements, and any disputes that may arise.

Having clear documentation can be crucial if the situation escalates and you need to involve the courts.

Follow every legal step

In California, there are specific legal steps that landlords must follow to evict a tenant. It is important to educate yourself on these steps and ensure that you adhere to them. This includes providing proper notice to the tenant, filing the necessary paperwork with the court, and attending any required hearings.

Failure to follow these steps can result in delays or even dismissal of your eviction case.

Consult a landlord-tenant attorney

When dealing with a difficult tenant who refuses to leave, it is often wise to consult with a landlord-tenant attorney. They have the expertise and knowledge of California eviction laws to guide you through the process and help you navigate any challenges that may arise.

An attorney can also provide you with the necessary legal advice to protect your rights as a landlord and ensure a successful eviction.

Remember, dealing with a tenant who won’t leave after buying a house can be stressful, but it is important to handle the situation legally and responsibly. By avoiding common mistakes, documenting everything, following the proper legal steps, and seeking professional legal advice, you can increase your chances of a successful eviction process.


Removing a holdover tenant in California takes time and effort, but following the lawful process closely is critical. Serve proper written notice, file a lawsuit if needed, and obtain a court order before attempting to evict.

With patience and professional legal help, you can reclaim your new property without drama. Then you can move forward with renting or selling the home once it’s vacant.

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