Evicting a Commercial Tenant in California

Commercial tenants are usually businesses that rent property space for commercial purposes. They can be a store or an office. Commercial tenants do not have the same legal protection as residential tenants as they are presumed to be more knowledgeable about the law. The relationship between a commercial tenant and their landlord is defined by a contract. Both commercial tenants and landlords must carefully read every clause of the contract before signing on the dotted line.


When Can a Commercial Tenant Be Evicted in California?

A commercial landlord can evict their tenant due to a variety of reasons, such as failure to pay rent, committing an illegal act, or violating the terms of the agreement (typical examples – using the property for any other purpose than defined by the lease, or altering the property). A commercial lease, unlike a residential lease, does not contain clause related to warranty of habitability, which means the tenant does not have any legal right to force the landlord to make repairs to ensure the property is habitable.

That said, a commercial tenant can argue that the condition of the property is so bad that no person in their right mind would rent it. Some commercial landlords deliberately ignore their commercial properties, hoping that the tenant would evict on their own. This is known as constructive eviction. If a commercial tenant is able to prove that they faced a constructive eviction, the court may penalize the landlord.


Eviction Process 

If a commercial tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord must give them a three-day notice to pay the rent in full. Tenants that violate the lease or rental agreement must be given a three-day notice to correct the violation. If a tenant commits serious violations, they must be given a three-day unconditional quit notice. Renters that receive this notice do not get any time to correct the violation, and must evict the property within three days. If they fail to move out of the property within three days, the landlord can go to a court to get an eviction notice.

A landlord can give their tenant a three-day unconditional notice, only if the renter is found guilty of:

  • Subletting the property in violation of the rental agreement
  • Damaging the property
  • Using the property for illegal activities
  • Creating or allowing someone else to create nuisance at the property

In California, a commercial landlord cannot:

  • Change the locks on the property
  • Forcefully evict the tenant
  • Remove the tenant’s personal property from the premise


Common Tenant Defenses

Here are a few defenses available to commercial tenants facing eviction in California:

  • The landlord discriminated against them in some way
  • The property owner did not properly serve the notice
  • The landlord was also in breach

Need legal advice about how to handle an eviction? The Law Office of Stephen M. Beckwith, a landlord tenant attorney in Santa Rosa, would be happy to help. Over the years, we have successfully handled several cases relating to evictions, including new changes in the law (Assembly Bill 1482, effective January 1, 2010), notice changes, rent increases, and rent rollback. We are committed to complete transparency. We are known for our ability to customize legal solutions to fit our clients’ needs. To talk to a seasoned eviction attorney near you, call us at (707) 526-5454.