Have you noticed that over the last couple of years that the eviction process has taken much longer? Years ago, the process for an uncontested eviction took about 30 days. Today, that process takes about 45 days. Unfortunately, the process is about to take much longer and initial estimates project a 60 day uncontested eviction.
I recently attended the Eviction Hub meeting in downtownLos Angelesgiven by the presiding judge.
Los Angeles County
TheCountyofLos Angelesannounced sweeping cuts to counteract a 60 to 80 million dollar budget shortfall. We learned that very soon, in fact possibly beginning in late March, thecountyofLos Angeleswill be downsizing their eviction courts from 25 courts to a FIVE COURT Trial Hub System (HUB).
Basically, it is the end of the neighborhood courthouses. All eastern cases fromPomonatoEl Montewill be filed and heard inPasadena. All San Fernando Valley cases will be inSanta Monica. AllSouthBaycases will be inLong Beach. AllAntelopeValleycases remain inLancasterand allLos Angelescases will remain in downtown LA. The presiding judge estimated that there were approximately 83,000 filings last year inL.A.County. They project that each HUB court will handle approximately 17,000 filings a year with a minimum staff of 20 employees. They will have two presiding judges overseeing the daily calendar of cases much like you would currently find in downtown L.A. Department 94.
What will this mean to you as a landlord? The most likely result will be that your eviction will take longer. Expect to find long lines at the filing windows of each of these courts. However, this is where you should forgo from doing your own eviction and instead have an attorney handle it. Most likely, there will be attorney and attorney service windows to speed things up. Expect your case when it goes to trial to probably last all day instead of the normal hour. In some cases, your case might be continued because it cannot be heard on the day it is set. You will be on a calendar with over 45-60 cases a day. Given that there is going to be a reduced staff in the clerk’s office, it is more than likely that we will never be able to reach a clerk by telephone.
They are considering implementing an email contact for default paperwork to control and monitor the rejection of documents for filing. The judges at the HUB meeting basically stated that this is going to be a wait and see type of implementation. They did, however, guarantee that the Unlawful Detainer cases would follow the case statutes requiring trials to be set within 20 days of filing a request for trial. Whether or not you get your trial completed on the date set it going to be another story. Also expect to have further legal aid effort in defense of the tenant. At the HUB meeting all the defense attorneys in attendance were jumping up and down about how unfair the process will be to tenants. They gave an example of a tenant having to travel from Van Nuys toSanta Monicaon a bus to get to court. Expect to have many hardship motions for failure to appear at trial.
What has happened in other counties? InOrangeCountyas of January 1, 2013, the courts switched over to electronic filings much like the Bankruptcy courts currently implement. This means that we cannot file any paperwork inOrangecounty courts , rather we have to submit it to a third party vendor digitally. For any document, there is a $7.00 filing fee and a longer turnaround time to find out after the credit card charge has been made as to whether the court accepted the filing. The more astonishing aspect of electronic filings inOrangeCountyis that they do not require the defendants to electronically file; rather they are providing court staff to accept their filings over the counter!
InSan BernardinoCounty, the second phase of the consolidation plan has already gone into effect with the closing of several courts. The courts at Big Bear,Barstow, Needles,ChinoandTwin Peakswill be closed. In many instances, people will have to travel over 100 miles to file an eviction. The courts also implemented a reduction of court filings from 4:00 p.m. to 3:00 pm and soon all Inland Empire eviction filings will be inFontanacourt house and all High desert filings will be at the Victorville or Twentynine Palms/Joshua tree court house.
InSan DiegoCounty, three courthouses were closed and the three remaining courthouses were consolidated. Our court staff is now only allowed to drop file all documents including new filings which can sometimes take up to two to three days to receive back conformed copies. So fa,rRiversideCountyis the only county not to implement any closures.
This impending court consolidation and reduction of court staff will cause delays in the processing of your unlawful detainer. The trickle down effect will be that your judgments will be greater because the tenants will be allowed to remain at the property for free for longer. The hope is that an uncontested case will not take more than 60 days from start to finish. As to contested cases in the new Trial Hub Court system, it is impossible to estimate but more than likely it will not take more than three to three and a half months to complete your eviction. The moral of this story is to begin your eviction quickly……do not allow your tenant to get behind in rent; otherwise, it will take longer to get then out than ever before.
Helen Grayce Long is an attorney at Fast Eviction Service which does evictions all over California. She has been an attorney for over 25 years and specializes in Landlord/Tenant and Real Estate Law. She also has extensive experience in Rent Control issues. Ms. Long has been a frequent speaker for AOA. Her topics of expertise include landlord/tenant law, Section 8 housing, Fair Housing, general Real Estate Law and Foreclosure Evictions. She can be reached at 1-800-686-8686 or by email at [email protected].