Evicting a Terminated Employee in California

Apartment complex owners, mobile home parks and other landlords often provide their on-site managers and workers with free housing or reduced rent as an incentive to accepting the employment.  While the arrangement can be mutually beneficial, issues can arise when the employment ends but the employee refuses to leave.    When that happens, is an eviction possible and, if so, what are the steps that need to be taken to successfully pursue the eviction?  In general, landlords have the right to evict property managers from the premises when employment is terminated. However, the eviction must still comply with state statutes and any local ordinances that may apply.

The starting point for the analysis is Civil Code section 1161, which states in part that a tenant is guilty of unlawful detainer when he or she “continues in possession …of the property … after the expiration of the term for which it is let to the tenant … where the person to be removed became the occupant of the premises as a servant, employee, agent, or licensee and the [relationship] has been lawfully terminated or the time fixed for occupancy by the agreement between the parties has expired; (Code Civ. Proc., § 1161.) 

Civil Code section 1161 specifically limits Paragraph 1 to situations where the relationship terminates “lawfully”.  Since “lawful” termination of employment is required, a claim of wrongful termination can delay or even preclude an unlawful detainer action. 

After s lawful discharge the employee immediately becomes a “tenant at sufferance,” and usually no prior eviction notice to terminate such a tenancy need be given.  In almost every other eviction situation, by contrast, the eviction proceeding in court must be preceded by a formal notice.  (See e.g. Paragraphs 2, 3, 4, and 5 of Section 1161 (requiring “three days’ notice to evict before filing the unlawful detainer lawsuit.).  Although no eviction notice is necessary, the owner will still need to file a court proceeding (unlawful detainer) to obtain a judgment for possession and then have the sheriff lock out the employee pursuant to a “writ of possession” issued by the judge.

The situation, however, is different if the manager/worker had previously been a rent-paying resident in the park pursuant to a rental agreement before being hired and provided free housing.  When such an employee is terminated, the person still has a rental agreement with the park and the landlord is required to evict the employee according to the normal landlord-tenant rules applicable to the situation. 

Owners should consider using employee-housing agreements that specifically provide that the employee can be terminated without cause, the housing being provided is merely incidental to their employment for the convenience of the employer, and the employee must leave immediately upon resignation or termination.  The intent of such language is to make clear that by using such an agreement, the employee will understand that while housing comes with the job, losing the job means losing the housing.

Please contact Lynx Legal with any questions regarding the above, and for all of your eviction needs.  Our experienced professionals are standing by to take your order and answer any inquiries you may have.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or  You may also schedule a telephonic consultation on our website to discuss your situation. 

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