Question from Me, How Can Tenants Respond to Unlawful Detainer and Default Judgments?
Answer from AI:
If you are a tenant in Los Angeles County and you find yourself facing an unlawful detainer action (eviction) despite a third party like PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) paying your rent in full, and your landlord has filed for a default judgment against you, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Here’s what you should know:
Understanding Unlawful Detainer and Default Judgments
An unlawful detainer is a legal action a landlord takes to evict a tenant. If you, as a tenant, have responded to the unlawful detainer complaint by filing an answer with the court, the case should proceed through the legal process, which includes a hearing.
A default judgment occurs when a defendant (in this case, the tenant) does not respond to a lawsuit, and the court grants the plaintiff’s (landlord’s) request for judgment without a trial. However, if you have already filed an answer, a default judgment should not typically be entered.
Steps to Take if a Default Judgment is Filed
- Review the Court Documents: Verify that a default judgment has been entered against you. You can do this by checking the court records or contacting the court clerk.
- File a Motion to Set Aside Default: If a default judgment was improperly filed after you answered the unlawful detainer, you may file a motion to set aside (vacate) the default judgment. This motion asks the court to nullify the default judgment due to a valid reason, such as the fact that you did respond to the complaint.
- Provide Evidence: When filing the motion, include any evidence that shows you did indeed file an answer, such as a copy of the answer and proof of service.
- Attend the Hearing: The court will schedule a hearing for your motion. Attend the hearing and be prepared to explain to the judge why the default judgment should be set aside.
- Seek Legal Assistance: Consider consulting with a legal professional who can provide personalized advice and representation. They can help you navigate the process and increase the chances of a favorable outcome.
Legal Resources and Assistance
- Self-Help Resources: Los Angeles County provides self-help resources for tenants facing eviction. You can find information and forms on the Los Angeles Superior Court website.
- Legal Aid Organizations: Organizations like Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) offer assistance to low-income individuals dealing with eviction and other legal issues.
- Lawyer Referral Services: The Los Angeles County Bar Association offers a lawyer referral service that can connect you with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law.
Remember that the legal process can be complex, and deadlines are critical. Failing to take timely action can result in losing your rights. It’s also important to keep all communication with your landlord in writing and to maintain records of all transactions and court documents.
Consulting with a legal professional is highly recommended to ensure that you understand your rights and options, and to provide the best chance of protecting your tenancy. Legal situations can vary widely, and what applies in one case may not apply in another. Only a lawyer can provide advice tailored to your specific circumstances.