How Do I Sue My Tenants for Breaking a Lease?

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If a tenant breaks a lease you can sue them, so long as certain conditions are met. Sue a tenant for breaking a lease with help from a licensed attorney and licensed California real estate broker in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Renting FAQs
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Video Transcript

Hello, my name is Nic McGrue and I'm an attorney at Polymath Legal located in Los Angeles, California. If you're a landlord, it's likely that at some point you'll have tenants that break their lease. In this video, I will discuss how to sue tenants when they break their lease agreement with you. The first thing you need in order to sue your tenants for breaking the lease, is the lease. The lease is a contract between you and your tenant. The lease tells you what you need to do and also what the tenant needs to do. In the lease, you will have evidence and have reasons for your lawsuit. One thing you should look for in the lease is an attorney's fee clause. This clause basically states that the prevailing party is entitled to attorney fees and costs. What that means is, if you sue your tenant and you win, your tenant has to pay for your attorney's fees. But, on the other hand, if you lose, you may have to pay for your tenant's attorney fees. Lawsuits can be complicated, so you really might want to think about hiring an attorney. Now, if you decide to go on your own, you should look into filing at small claims court. Generally, small claims complaints happen much faster and they're much less expensive. A lawsuit is commenced by filing a summons and complaint. The summons and complaint basically tells your tenant that you plan to sue them, and it gives brief facts as to the reasons why you are suing them. After you file the summons and complaint and pay the filing fee, you then must personally serve your tenant. By personal service that means someone over the age of eighteen must physically deliver the summons and complaint to your tenant. Now, if you cannot find your tenant in order to personally serve them, check with your local court's rules, because there are other ways that you can properly serve them as well. Once your tenant has been served with the complaint, they'll have thirty days to file an answer. The answer is basically their response to your complaint, where you allege that they breached the lease. Once the tenant files the answer, you then move into the discovery phase. During the discovery phase, you can gather evidence to support your case for when you proceed to trial. Additionally, during the discovery phase, the judge will set a date for trial. Now most matters settle outside of court before a trial ever starts, but if you reach your trial date and you have not settled, then you will proceed to trial. Once again, my name is Nic and this has been how to sue your tenant when they break a lease.


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