What is a detainer action?

Nearly everyone in Santa Clara has probably heard stories about roommates or tenants who just will not leave. There is no shortage of humorous suggestions aimed at solving such a problem: changing the locks, buying a vicious guard dog or just moving away yourself. Yet there is little that is funny about such a situation when your are having to deal with it. When struggling with having to evict an unwanted guest or tenant, you will likely become very familiar with the term “detainer action.”

A detainer action refers to the concept of an unlawful detainer, or someone staking claim to or retaining ownership of a property without a legal right. In most cases, detainer actions refer evictions over unpaid rent or lease expirations. According to the Superior Court of California for Santa Clara County, however, there are other types of detainer cases. One is a forcible detainer, where one uses the threat of violence to remain in your property, or goes in when you are not there and refuses to leave for at least five days. The other is actual forcible entry, where one uses to force to gain entry into your property. Your roommate or tenant using a calm guise to get into your property and then refusing to leave is also considered to be forcible entry.

Detainer actions are the proceedings related to evicting the unwelcome person from your property. County courts typically place priority on such cases given the sensitive nature of the dispute (in Santa Clara County, cases can be resolved in as little as 20 days). The ultimate goal of such action is to secure a judgment for possession, which you can then present to county authorities. The sheriff’s office can then compel the person to leave (using force, if necessary).

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