SAN FRANCISCO, CA (KRON) – On Wednesday, the California attorney general issued a stern warning to landlords who attempt to evict tenants through unlawful actions such as changing locks, shutting off water and electricity, or threatening tenants.

The California Department of Justice said its Housing Strike Force had received reports of landlords attempting to evict tenants without legal court authorization. Under California law, the only legal way to evict a tenant is to file a lawsuit in court.

“Nearly 1.5 million tenants in California are at risk of eviction, struggling to raise next month’s rent as the cost of living continues to rise,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said.

“While landlords may be frustrated, they have a responsibility to follow proper procedure if eviction is the necessary next step. Let’s be clear: it means filing a case in court,” Bonta said.

The only legal way to evict a tenant is to file a lawsuit and wait for the court to order law enforcement to evict. The Attorney General has warned landlords that so-called “self-help evictions” can result in civil or criminal liability for a landlord.

“You can’t change locks, turn off power, or remove personal property in order to force a tenant out of their home,” Bonta said.

Two types of evictions

The Tenant Protection Act prohibits landlords from evicting most tenants without “just cause”. The law provides for two types of evictions: evictions for fault and evictions without fault.

Evictions for fault include: non-payment of rent; criminal activity at the scene; denial of entry permit; nuisance or waste; violation of an essential clause of the lease. No-fault evictions include: the landlord wants to move in, the landlord wants to do a substantial renovation that requires permits and will take longer than 30 days, and the landlord intends to demolish the house.

Landlords can only evict a tenant for one of the listed reasons here. Lying about the reason for a tenant’s eviction is also illegal.

There is good news for tenants this summer. Zumper wrote, “National rent prices typically peak during the summer, which in ‘normal’ years is the busiest moving season. But Zumper’s national index rose just 0.5% for one-bedroom apartments and 2.9% for two-bedroom apartments, a sign that rent growth is starting to slow. »

Bonta acknowledged that many families in the Bay Area and across California are currently struggling to pay their rent. He said he is committed to advancing housing access, affordability and equity in California, including protecting and promoting tenant rights.

The Attorney General’s Office created the Housing Strike Force and launched a Housing portal on the DOJ website with resources and information for California landlords and tenants.

Law enforcement cannot use force

Bonta gave the following legal advice to law enforcement on Wednesday when police officers or sheriff’s deputies are called upon to handle a dispute between a landlord and tenant:

  • Law enforcement should never assist a landlord in evicting a tenant by force or threat.
  • Only the sheriff or marshal, or their deputies, can evict a tenant, and only by court order.
  • Law enforcement should inform the landlord or others involved that it is a crime to force tenants out of a rental property and ask them to allow the tenant back into the house.
  • Law enforcement should advise the landlord to consult a lawyer if they have a problem with the tenant or to legally evict the tenant.
  • Law enforcement must file an incident report even if no arrests are made.

“Today’s guidance underscores the important role of law enforcement in responding to reports of unlawful evictions and their responsibility to intervene to uphold the law and stop self-help evictions when they occur. see them.”

The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send their housing-related complaints to [email protected] To find a free legal aid lawyer in your area, you can go to https://lawhelpca.org.