What to Expect in Court

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In California, Unlawful Detainer hearings take place in a courtroom in front of a judge or a commissioner.

  • There will be other people in the courtroom – court staff, and other people waiting for their case to be heard.
  • For a checklist on how to prepare for court on the hearing date, click here.

Special Note:  The following are general guidelines.  The actual rules may be different in each court, so learn your county's local rules of court on trial procedures.

  • To find your county's court website, click here. Opens new window

When your Unlawful Detainer case is called, you and the tenant (or the tenant’s representative) are both to go up to the tables in front of the judge.


  • You, the landlord, have officially complained that the tenant, is living in your rental unit illegally;
  • And the tenant has officially answered that you, the landlord, are trying to evict him or her illegally.

At the beginning of your hearing, the judge will ask you and the other party to state your names for the court record. Then, the judge will listen to both sides of the story.

  • The judge may ask anyone any questions at anytime. He or she will examine the evidence presented by both parties.

The judge will decide whether or not the tenant has the legal right to remain in the rental unit. This decision will be based upon many considerations, including:

  • If you, the landlord, have fulfilled your responsibilities as outlined, for example, in (California Civil Code, Section 1941), Opens new window and
  • If the tenant has fulfilled his or her responsibilities as outlined, for example, in (California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 1161). Opens new window

At the hearing when the final decision is made on the unlawful detainer complaint, the judge may:

  • Decide in favor of the tenant.
    In this case the tenant does not have to move. The landlord may be ordered to pay the tenant's court costs (for example, filing fees) and the tenant's attorney's fees. However, the tenant will have to pay any rent that the court orders. OR
  • Decide in favor of the landlord.
    In this case, the tenant will have to move. In addition, the court may order the tenant to pay the landlord's court costs and any attorney's fees, and any proven damages, such as overdue rent or the cost of repairs if the tenant
    damaged the premises.

NOTE:  There may be more than one court hearing before the case is settled.

Once the judge has made a decision, he or she will sign a court order stating what decision was made.

The court will give or mail a copy of this order to you.

For information about what happens after the hearing see "After the Court Trial".


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