You've gotten a three-day notice to 'Pay Or Quit'.

Over the next few weeks, more notices arrive, filled with legal jargon and bearing labels such as 'complaint-unlawful detainer'. You are not a person but the "defendant". Finally, a sheriff's deputy shows up at your door and hands you a  sheaf of papers labeled "notice to vacate". 

Rich or poor, people value their homes. Now you've got just days before yours will be taken away from you. What should you do? At this stage of the game, your options are few and none of them is good. But evictions can move fast. Experts say the earlier you take action, the better. Here is a brief guide.

PAY THE RENT:

Generally, a lawful tenant has the same rights to his or her home as homeowners do to their property. Tenancy gives you the right of possession, subject to the terms of your lease or rental agreement. Pay your rent on time, follow the reasonable and legal rules of your contract and your chances of being forced to move are slim.

The Eviction Defense Network website advises against using cash and says tenants should get a receipt. Even if you faithfully pay the rent, landlords can order you to leave your rental by giving a formal notice of 30 or 60 days before the end of your lease or month to month rental term, depending on how long you have lived there and whether you live in a rent controlled city such as Los Angeles or Santa Monica. 

THREE DAY NOTICE TO PAY OR QUIT:

This gives you three days to pay your rent or move out. If you make a payment, thr landlord must accept it. Don't ignore such notices. The count starts the day after your notice was delivered and includes weekends and holidays, although you have until the following business day if it ends on a weekend or holiday.

Failure to pay the rent is the primary reason for such orders, but landlords also can order tenants to leave for rental agreement violations such as having unauthorized pets, being a public nuisance or engaging in illegal activity.

UNLAWFUL DETAINER COMPLAINT:

An unlawful detainer or UD, is court jargon for eviction. This is the start of the eviction process. A landlord must go to court to evict you and can't force you out by other means such as changing your locks, cutting off utilities, seizing your property or removing windows or your front door. You might be able to stop the eviction by paying your rent, but after the first three days expire, the landlord doesn't have to accept your payment. 

TENANT RESPONSE:

Tenants then have the right to a trial before an eviction can take place. But once an eviction complaint has been served, tenants have five days to file a written response with the court clerk- or 15 days if someone else on the premises is served on behalf of the tenant or if the complain is services by certified mail.The tenant should have a valid defense to right an eviction.

Such defenses could include: proof that the tenant pain the rent or tried to pay the rent before the 3 day notice expired, the notice of complaint was defective, the tenant made needed repairs and deducted the cost from the rent, the landlord is retaliating for complains made or the landlord is discriminating against the tenant. If tenants don't respond on time, a judge will enter a default judgement- that is, an eviction order without any hearings. Judges also can order tenants to pay back rent, fees, costs and damages.

NOTICE TO VACATE:

After an eviction order is filed, the sheriff's department delivers a notice to vacate, giving the tenant five days to move out.

RACE TO THE COURTHOUSE:

There are some options left for tenants to delay an eviction. They can request an exparte hearing to request a stay of execution. But time is short. They must give notice to the landlord by 10AM of the day before the hearing. You need a good reason to ask for more time. If there's another adult living in the home but not named in the eviction, he could come forward and ask to be added to the case. That could delay the eviction, but that other tenant also ends up with an eviction on his or her record. 

SHERIFF'S LOCKOUT:

If the tenant hasn't moved out after 5 days, sheriff's deputies come, give tenants a minimal amount of time to grab a few things and then lock up the home. The landlord stores any possessions left in the home and can charge a reasonable storage fee. After 15 days the landlord can auction off those possessions if the value is over $700. If the value is under $700, the landlord can dispose of the property as he or she chooses. 

Article Courtesy of: The Press Enterprise/