Years ago, the process for an uncontested eviction took about 30 days.
Now, 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 downtown Los Angeles given by the presiding judge.
The Los Angeles County announced sweeping cuts to counteract a $60 million to $80 million budget shortfall. We learned that very soon — in fact, possibly beginning late this month — L.A. County will downsize its eviction courts from 25 to a five-court trial-hub system.
Basically, it is the end of the neighborhood courthouses:
- All eastern cases from Pomona to El Montes will be filed and heard in Pasadena.
- All San Fernando Valley cases will be in Santa Monica.
- All South Bay cases will be in Long Beach.
- All Antelope Valley cases remain in Lancaster
- And all LA cases remain in Downtown L.A.
The presiding judge estimated that there were approximately 83,000 filings last year in L.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? Most likely, your eviction will take longer.
Expect to find long lines at the filing windows of each of these courts. This, however, is where you should forgo from doing your own eviction and instead have an attorney handling 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 instances, your case might be continued because it cannot be heard the day it is set. You will be on a calendar with more than 45 to 60 cases a day. Given that there is going to be a reduced staff in the clerk’s office, it’s 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 said 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 one. Whether or not you get your trial completed on the date set is 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 the example of a tenant having to travel from Van Nuys to Santa Monica on a bus to get to court. Expect to have many hardship motions for failure to appear at trial.
What has happened in other counties? In Orange County, as of Jan. 1, the courts switched over to electronic filings, much like the bankruptcy court currently implements.
This means that we cannot file any paperwork in Orange County Court; rather we have to submit it digitally to a third-party vendor.
For any document, there is a $7 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 in Orange County is that they do not require the defendants to electronically file; rather they are providing court staff to accept their filings over the counter.
In San Bernardino County, 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, Chino and Twin Peaks will be closed. In many instances, people will have to travel more than 100 miles to file an eviction.
The courts also implemented a reduction of court filings from 4 p.m. to 3 p.m., and soon, all Inland Empire eviction filings will be in the Fontana courthouse, and all High Desert filings will be at the Victorville or Twentynine Palms/Joshua Tree courthouse.
In San Diego County, three courthouses were closed, and the three remaining courthouses were consolidated. Our court staff are only allowed now to drop file all documents, including new filings, which can sometimes take up to two to three days to receive back conformed copies. So far, Riverside County is the only county not to implement any closures.
Bottom line: This impending court consolidation and reduction of court staff will cause delays in the processing of your unlawful detainer.
The trickle-down effect: 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 him or her 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 more than 25 years and specializes in landlord/tenant and real estate law. She also has extensive experience in rent control issues. She can be reached at 1-800-686-8686 or by email at email@example.com.