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  • Daniel Rodriguez

What Role Does the Sheriff Play in a Residential Tenant Eviction in California?

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Most landlords are aware that, in California, a sheriff plays a major role in an unlawful detainer action filed to evict a residential tenant. While most landlords understand that the sheriff will play an essential role in this process, they may not realize that they can provide additional direction to the sheriff regarding how he or she should proceed. In many cases, engaging with the sheriff before he or she arrives to remove a tenant can provide significant advantages for a landlord. A landlord tenant lawyer of the NewPoint Law group can help assist and guide landlords through the eviction process.

What Actions Can a Sheriff Take Prior to Judgement and Following Judgement for Possession?

The sheriff may be hired to personally serve the summons and complaint in the unlawful detainer lawsuit. However, the preferred method is to hire registered process servers, who tend to be more efficient and timely. If it becomes necessary to involve the sheriff, the last step in the unlawful detainer process, after a judgment has been entered, arrangements are made to have the sheriff meet the landlord at the rental property and (if required) physically remove the tenant(s) from the property.  If the tenant(s) refuse to vacate voluntarily, the sheriff will use all reasonable force to remove the tenant(s).

After the landlord obtains a judgment for possession, the process turns to the sheriff to have the tenants physically removed. The piece of paper the sheriff must receive from the Court to remove the tenant is known as a Writ of Possession. Once the Writ of Possession is issued by the court clerk, it is delivered to the sheriff, who in turn will post a notice on the premises stating that the tenant has five days to vacate. The sheriff will return in five days, and if the tenants have not voluntarily vacated, the sheriff will enter the premises and remove the tenants.

How Can a Lawyer Help Landlords Manage the Removal of the Tenant by the Sheriff?

There is always a concern that when the sheriff arrives to remove the tenants after a judgment for possession has been entered, that other unknown persons will be there and claim that they are tenants with a right to be there. The sheriff may not remove these unknown persons and force the landlord to have another hearing with further costs and delays. This can be avoided if the landlord includes a form titled “Prejudgment Claim of Right of Possession” with the summons and complaint that is personally served to the known tenants.  This form essentially states that if there are other persons living there, and those persons want to be included in the unlawful detainer lawsuit, the unknown persons must also file answers to the complaint to avoid eviction.  If these unknown persons do not file an answer to the compliant, the judgment and writ of possession includes unknown persons, and it states that a “Prejudgment Claim of Right of Possession” form was served upon the known tenants, then the sheriff will also remove the unknown tenants.

Many landlords overlook the use of this form and may suffer the consequences if unknown persons are in the rental property at the time of the lock-out.  It is important that landlords use the services of experienced and knowledgeable unlawful detainer attorneys to avoid these types of mistakes.

Work with an Experienced Roseville Unlawful Detainer Attorney

The attorneys at NewPoint Law Group, LLP, LLP have developed working relationships with sheriff departments in California to ensure that the role of the sheriff in this process is smooth and efficient. In all unlawful detainer actions we work to return possession of the premises to the landlord quickly and efficiently. To schedule a confidential unlawful detainer action or lease agreement consultation or discuss landlord-tenant law at our Roseville or Folsom, California law offices, please call 800-358-0305 today or contact the firm online.

Be sure to check out our Unlawful Retainer Blog Series for further information:

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1 Comment

Rebecca Shaw-Trenary
Rebecca Shaw-Trenary
Jan 07

Would like to know if a writ of possession was made by Judge on fiday evening when will my five days start, Saturday or Monday and if I went to court will the sheriff still post a 5 day vacate on door? Sacramento california please email me at thank you

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