Legislative Watch: AB 2343 (2018): Amendment to Unlawful Detainer Statutes To Extend Breach Cure Period and Tenants’ Time To Respond to Complaint

AB 2343 (2018), introduced by Assemblymember Chiu, seeks to significantly alter the the timing involved in unlawful detainer actions.

Unlawful detainers (often referred to as an “eviction lawsuit”) are unique among civil actions for their summary character. This is because, unlike other civil actions, they proceed on a five-day summons (instead of thirty), and most of their discovery and law & motion procedures are condensed as well. (Because of this, there have also been consequences for failure to “strictly comply” with the unlawful detainer statutes, in that a landlord must properly plead why she has standing for an unlawful detainer case (as opposed to, say, a breach of contract and ejectment lawsuit), as other causes of action and cross-complaints are generally not allowed. This also means that a landlord has served, e.g., a “three-day notice to cure or quit” that has expired prior to commencing the eviction lawsuit.

AB 2343 would alter several of those timelines. It would require ten (not three) days’ notice for evictions based on breach of lease or non payment and five days (not three) for nuisance/waste. It would also extend the response deadline to the service of summons from five to fourteen days.

While this legislation is certainly well-intentioned (allowing tenants to obtain counsel and meaningfully assert meritorious defenses), true reform would probably also take account of tenant-side abuses and delays. (For instance, both a motion for summary judgment and the “Delta” motion to quash could be set for hearing in five or three court days respectively. Those motions can challenge the cause of action for unlawful detainer with the full universe of relevant evidence (like declarations from witnesses and perhaps even evidence of collateral evidence of one side’s wrongdoing). (For that matter, while the Delta motion has fallen out of favor following a split of authority in the Second District, it’s still technically available, pending a legislative fix, and it has historically led to months of delay in putting a case at issue.)

And yet somehow, a general demurrer (i.e., an objection to the complaint itself, with no evidence) still gets between sixteen court days and thirty-five calendar days for hearing. Tenants control the hearing date, so this frequently amounts to a free month of possession (and delay) while the landlord awaits a ruling on relatively simple issues. While California’s housing crisis is a serious issue and has lead to a lot of rent-burdened tenants, it seems a bit beside the point to solve the problem by locking up unlawfully detained housing units for longer.