FAQs

  1. How can I find free or low-cost legal help in my area?
  2. Is this toolkit free?
  3. I am undocumented. Can I use this tool?
  4. How does the Eviction Answer Tool help me fight my eviction?
  5. Who can use The Eviction Answer Tool?
  6. How does the Rent Debt Tool help me fight my debt? Who can use it?
  7. What if I have not sent a declaration to the landlord about my financial problems caused by COVID-19?
  8. I’m facing eviction, but I don’t have a Summons and Complaint yet. What are my options?
  9. I just submitted my documents through this tool. What happens next?
  10. I need to file my papers in person. How do I do that?
  11. How do I know how many days I have to file my UD Answer?
  12. I’m being pursued for rental debt. What do I do now?
  13. What is a Tenants’ Union? What is a Debtors’ Union?
  14. What will you do with my information? What is your data privacy policy?
  15. How can I help this effort?
  • 1. How can I find free or low-cost legal help in my area?

    Visit our "Get Help" page here to find legal and organizing support.

  • 2. Is this toolkit free?

    Yes, all the Tools in the Tenant Power Toolkit are 100% free. The court charges tenants $240 to file a response to your eviction in court, but if you receive certain public benefits or if your income is low enough, you can get that fee waived. We’ll walk you through that fee waiver process in the tool.

  • 3. I am undocumented. Can I use this tool?

    Yes. You can and should use this tool to fight your eviction and your rent debt. Your immigration status does not affect your right to housing. You have full rights to use the court system regardless of your immigration status. Immigration status is not allowed as a topic of discussion in eviction court proceedings. Even if you fear your landlord wants to use your undocumented status against you, they are forbidden from doing that in the courthouse or in your eviction case.

  • 4. How does the Eviction Answer Tool help me fight my eviction?

    This tool does two important things:

    • The Eviction Answer Tool allows tenants facing legal eviction (who have been served with a Summons and Complaint-Unlawful Detainer) to respond to their eviction by filing what’s called an “Answer” through the court system. If tenants receive a Summons and Complaint-Unlawful Detainer but don’t file a legal response in time, they can be evicted within weeks. This tool is designed to keep people in their homes long enough to fight back.

    • With consent, this tool gathers basic information about your eviction situation in order to link you with legal resources, tenants’ rights groups, and to inform our housing justice work, for example: to find super-evictor-landlords and slumlords, to negotiate repairs, fight for rent cancellation, eliminate tenant debt, and identify winnable legal cases to strengthen tenants’ rights. In order to do this work, we ask for tenant consent to share some information about themselves and their case with organizers, anti-eviction lawyers and researchers.

  • 5. Who can use The Eviction Answer Tool?

    The Eviction Answer Tool will work for people who live anywhere in California who have been served a Summons and Complaint-Unlawful Detainer on a pre-printed court-approved form (which will have the code “UD100” in the lower left hand corner).

    For tenants in LA County the tool will guide you through a detailed UD Answer form and file it electronically with the court. For tenants anywhere outside of LA county the tool will guide you through a UD Answer form that you will file in person at the courthouse listed on your Summons and Complaint.

    If your Complaint-Unlawful Detainer is NOT on the specified pre-printed form, you should seek legal help immediately. Find legal help in your area here.

    If you have received other eviction papers - a 60-day notice, a 30-day notice, a 3-day notice, the best thing to do right now is to try to find free or low-cost legal help and connect with tenant power organizations. You can find tenant organizations in your area here.

  • 6. How does the Rent Debt Tool help me fight my debt? Who can use it?

    Everyone in California can use the rent debt tool!

    The Rent Debt Tool can help you figure out:

    1. Exactly how much you owe
    2. If your landlord has been trying to collect the debt illegally
    3. If you should receive rental assistance from a government program, and if you didn’t, help you pursue that
    4. How to fight back in small claims court
    5. How to join a union of debtors fighting to cancel rent debt together

  • 7. What if I have not sent a declaration to the landlord about my financial problems caused by COVID-19?

    Both the California State government and the Federal government (via the Center for Disease Control, or CDC) have issued eviction protections for some tenants who have financial problems because of COVID-19. In order for these protections to apply to you, you must provide a declaration (a document signed under oath) to the landlord. If you have not already sent a declaration to the landlord, this tool can file a declaration with the Court.

  • 8. I’m facing eviction, but I don’t have a Summons and Complaint yet. What are my options?

    First, we want to let you know that you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of households in California and millions of households across the country are facing eviction right now. Alone we are vulnerable, but together we are powerful. We want to work with you to stop all evictions, cancel rent, lower rent going forward, and improve our living conditions.

    If you have received other eviction papers - a 60-day notice, a 30-day notice, a 3-day notice, the best thing to do right now is to try to find free or low-cost legal help and connect with tenant power organizations. You can find find legal and organizing support here.

  • 9. I just submitted my documents through this tool. What happens next?

    First, congratulations! You’ve just taken the first step in fighting your eviction. Please consider telling your neighbors and other family members about this tool, sharing it on social media, and in the communities you are part of.

    Next steps:

    1. The first and most important step you need to take right now is to find free or low cost legal services in your area. You will still need legal help with your eviction case as it moves through court. You can find free or low-cost legal help in your area here.

    2. You will be notified about the next steps in your eviction case by mail. It is very important that you check your mail regularly, and open everything that comes. A few legal documents might come next:

      • You may get a Request for Trial Setting, which is a document the landlord files to get a date for a trial in your case. If you get this document, and you have not yet been matched with a lawyer, please send us an email: tenantpower@debtcollective.org
      • You may get forms that are called “discovery.” These are usually forms titled "Interrogatories" and/or "Requests for Admission".

    PLEASE DO NOT IGNORE THESE FORMS. YOU HAVE ONLY FIVE DAYS TO RESPOND TO THEM. If you get these forms, and you have not yet been matched with a lawyer, please send us an email: tenantpower@debtcollective.org

    Now is also the time to start working together to fight our evictions collectively. To do this, you should connect with your local tenants union! You can find organizing efforts in your area here. Organizing with your neighbors and a tenants union can help you:

    • Get educated about your rights.
    • Form a tenants’ association in your building or on your block.
    • Negotiate with your landlord to make repairs, cancel rent debt, or rollback rents.
    • Put public pressure on your landlord to meet your demands.
    • Block illegal lockouts and protect against harassment.
    • Connect with other people experiencing the same crisis.

  • 10. I need to file my papers in person. How do I do that?

    This is a step-by-step guide on how to file the Unlawful Detainer Answer papers you’ve filled out with our tool with the court. Basically, you will need to deliver one set of signed papers to the court in person, and get some help to mail another set to your landlord’s lawyer (or your landlord, if the landlord has no lawyer). It’s a little complicated, but you can definitely do it! If you need help email us at tenantpower@debtcollective.org

    [CLICK HERE TO PRINT THESE DIRECTIONS]

      PREPARING YOUR PAPERWORK

    1. You will need access to a printer and / or to go to a public library or copy place to make all the copies you need. Local tenant organizers can also help you with this. Find their contacts here.
    2. Download the forms you made using the Tool. (If you gave us an email address, we have also emailed the same forms to that address).
    3. Please make the following number of copies of each form you printed:

      (The court forms have names and a number in small print in the lower left corner or bold print in the upper left corner.)

      FORM NAME FORM NUMBER NUMBER OF COPIES
      Answer-Unlawful Detainer with Attachment 3w UD 105 3 copies
      Proof of Service by First Class Mail - Civil POS-030 3 copies (if you requested a jury trial, make 8 copies)
      Demand for Jury Trial (if you requested a jury trial) 3 copies
      Request to Waive Court Fees (if you are asking for a fee waiver) FW-001 2 copies
      Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (if you requested a jury trial and are asking for a fee waiver) FW-002 2 copies
      Order on Court Fee Waiver FW-003 2 copies
    4. Once you’ve made all these copies, find a person over the age of 18 who is not named on the Summons you received. (This can be a friend or family member, or a member of your local tenants union! The only requirement is that they are over 18 and their name is not on the summons.) We will call this person “the Server”.
    5. Have the Server fill out four (or six, if you requested a jury trial) copies of the Proof of Service by Mail by entering the information requested on the form that is not pre-printed (hand printing is fine).
    6. Staple one Proof of Service by Mail form that the server just signed to each copy of the Answer-Unlawful Detainer and to each copy of the Demand for Jury Trial.
    7. For the set that goes in the mail:

    8. Prepare an envelope large enough for one copy of the Answer (UD-105) plus Proof of Service, and Demand for Jury Trial plus Proof of Service (if you requested a jury trial) and enough postage to mail the envelope by First Class Mail. Address the envelope to the landlord’s lawyer (or landlord, if there is no lawyer) to the same address listed on the Proof of Service (and taken from the very top of the Complaint).
    9. The Server must mail the envelope you have prepared with postage. The Server can do this at the Post Office, where you can get a receipt, or at a USPS mailbox but ONLY if the Server puts the envelope in the mailbox before the time of last pickup for the day posted on that mailbox.
    10. For the set that you deliver in person to the court:

    11. You should sign one copy (which will become the original you file with the court) of the Answer-Unlawful Detainer and the Demand for Jury Trial (if requested). The Server will be signing the Proof of Service by Mail attached to both of these documents. You cannot file your response unless BOTH you AND the Server have signed the papers you are filing.
    12. Sign one copy of the Request to Waive Court Fees and, if you requested a jury trial, also the Request to Waive Additional Court Fees. The signed copies of these documents will be the originals to be filed with the court and are confidential. (You don’t need to mail these to the landlord which is why we don’t talk about them in steps 1-8.)
    13. The address of the courthouse where you file your legal response is listed on the first page of the Summons you received. Plan on getting to the courthouse no later than 3pm, to give you time to find the Clerk’s office before it closes. You will need to take two copies of each form you are filing: the signed original and one copy the clerk will stamp and give back to you. The stamped copies are called “conformed copies” and you keep them for your records.
    14. At the courthouse, go to the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court, which you can find on a building room directory or by asking a uniformed guard or someone else who looks like they might know.
    15. FEE WAIVER: At the Clerk’s window, if you are asking for a fee waiver, give the clerk the signed original plus one copy of all of the forms. (The extra copy is for the Clerk to stamp and give back to you as proof that you filed.) The clerk or judge will use the Form FW-003 to decide if you qualify for a fee waiver or not. If you receive public benefits or your household income is below the numbers listed on the FW-001 form, your fee should be automatically waived. It might take a few hours for them to make this decision, or they might let you know the next day. The clerk will not file your papers until the issue of the court filing fee is decided. The clerk or court may waive the fee for filing the answer but not waive for the jury fee. You can pay the jury fee ($150) later. If you are not asking for a fee waiver, give the clerk only the Answer-Unlawful Detainer, plus Proof of Service, and the Demand for Jury Trial, plus proof of service (if you are requesting one). You will be required to pay a filing fee. As of January 1, 2020, if the landlord is asking for more than $25,000, the filing fee is $435; if between $10,000 and $25,000, the fee is $370; and if below $10,000, the fee is $225. You can pay the jury fee later.
    16. Be sure you keep the stamped or “conformed” copies the clerk gave you in a safe place.

    WHAT NOW?

    First, congratulate yourself on getting through a ridiculously complicated process in order to keep from being evicted without even a hearing! The great majority of landlords have lawyers, many of whom specialize in evicting people. The great majority of tenants cannot afford lawyers. There are far too few legal aid and other free lawyers. If you agree that tenants should have a right to a lawyer when they are faced with losing their home, join the fight!!

    Second, we have done our best to provide this free service to tenants. But no computer program is a substitute for a lawyer or other expert. Now that you have filed your answer, you have 10 calendar days to have an expert review your paperwork and, if necessary, prepare and file a better “amended” answer. We strongly recommend that you try to find legal help to do just that.

  • 11. How do I know how many days I have to file my UD Answer?

    Your deadline for getting your answer to the court depends on when and how you (or someone else in your household) received the unlawful detainer summons and complaint. In most cases the summons and complaint are served personally by handing them to a tenant in person (called "personal service"). This could also include the summons and complaint being left on your doorstep or handed to someone else in your household. If this is how you received your summons and complaint, you only have 5 days to file your answer in court. If the 5th day falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the answer is due on the next day that is not a weekend day or holiday.

    If you received your unlawful detainer summons and complaint by mail (also called "substituted service") you have 15 days from the postmark on the envelope.

    No matter how you received your unlawful detainer summons and complaint, eviction is a time-sensitive process, and we encourage you to file your papers as soon as you possibly can.

  • 12. I’m being pursued for rental debt. What do I do now?

    First, please take a moment to fill out our Rent Debt Tool (Coming Soon!). This tool will help you determine:

    1. Exactly how much you owe
    2. If your landlord has been trying to collect the debt illegally
    3. If you should receive rental assistance from a government program, and if you didn’t, help you pursue that
    4. How to fight back in small claims court
    5. How to join a union of debtors fighting to cancel rent debt together

    We can also use what we learn in this tool to fight for more rent relief, identify landlords and debt collectors who are collecting illegally and stop them, and organize debtors against concentrated landlords.

    Is your landlord or your landlord’s lawyer taking you to small claims court?

    Our tools will help you prepare for what’s coming and give you some guidelines for how to beat your landlord.

    • First things first, make sure your landlord is suing for the debt. Under California law, most types of tenant debt cannot be transferred to sold to third parties. You may not owe the person anything!
    • Don’t pay anyone a dime moving forward. If you are headed to court anyways, there’s no sense in paying anyone anything unless you have a new deal in writing you can live with. Payments, even as small as a dollar or a few cents, can be used as evidence of guilt. Don’t pay!
    • Set aside the date of your trial, if you can. If you do not appear, the landlord will almost always prevail automatically in small claims. If you absolutely cannot make court that day, you can file for an extension. Our rent debt tool (Coming Soon!) will help you do this.
    • Make sure to get everything you say to the landlord in writing moving forward. If you offer a payment plan, make sure you have a written offer you can later use as evidence -- even by text is fine, but save screenshots.
    • If you live in a multi-unit building, see if your neighbors are also being sued. Small claims court isolates people, but there are ways to overcome this problem. This is definitely a good time to talk to your neighbors, and have them use the Rent Debt Tool (Coming Soon!) as well.
    • If you are worried about your credit rating and want to pay the debt, make an offer in writing to your landlord to pay on your own terms. Even if they refuse, this can help you a great deal in court later. Make sure you document their response!
    • Prepare your defense. Our tool will prep you on what to say when you arrive in court, what to bring with you, and how to have the best odds of winning against your landlord. If you have a fair argument, you have a good chance of winning.
    • If you start getting calls about the debt, don’t discuss the debt over the phone. Demand the caller communicate with you in writing. If they refuse, tell them you are recording their calls for ‘quality control’ and ask them politely but firmly to leave you alone and send requests in writing.
    • You have the right to a day in court. Don’t let anyone rush you into anything. The court may decide you owe far less, or nothing, to your landlord.

  • 13. What is a Tenants’ Union? What is a Debtors’ Union?

    If you are facing eviction alone, your landlord has power over you. But if you are facing eviction with everyone in your building, and everyone in all the other buildings your landlord owns, then you have the power to make demands: Cancel Rent! Lower rent rates! Make repairs! Tenants unions build collective power over landlords.

    Organizing with your neighbors and a tenants union can help you:

    • Get educated about your rights.
    • Form a tenants’ association in your building or on your block.
    • Negotiate with your landlord to make repairs, cancel rent debt, or rollback rents.
    • Put public pressure on your landlord to meet your demands
    • Block illegal lockouts and protect against harassment.
    • Connect with other people experiencing the same crisis.
    • Join the LA Tenants Union! Read their Tenant Handbook!
    • The Debt Collective organizes debtors’ unions. Debtors’ unions work to turn our individual debts (our rent, our student debt, our medical debt, our bills) into a form of collective power. Debtors’ unions work a lot like workers’ unions. Individually, workers are at the mercy of their bosses. But workers can come together in a union to change the conditions of their work: fighting for better wages, benefits, and improved working conditions.

      As individual debtors we are at the mercy of our creditors - for our housing, medical care, education, utilities, and more. In a debtors’ union, we come together and fight for better conditions in our financial lives: cancellation and renegotiation of debts. Since the economy is dependent on all of us paying our bills, we have collective power by threatening to stop paying our debts - a debt strike! We can use our power as debtors to fight for public goods including housing, medical care, and education, and to repair ongoing racialized harm (ie, reparations and redress). Learn more about Debtors Unions here!

  • 14. What will you do with my information? What is your data privacy policy?

    The Tenant Power Toolkit is made by a team including the The Debt Collective, The LA Tenants Union, and The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. When using this tool, you will be asked for some information about yourself and what is happening to you. This tool will start by asking for basic information about your eviction situation in order to link you with legal resources, tenants rights groups, and to inform our housing justice work, for example, to: find super-evictor-landlords and slumlords, negotiate repairs, fight for rent cancellation, and identify winnable legal cases to strengthen tenants’ rights. In order to do this work, we ask for your consent to share some of the information about yourself and your case with organizers, anti-eviction lawyers and researchers.

    If you have been served a Summons and Unlawful Detainer, and are using the tool to file an answer in the court system, we will use the information you provide to file an Answer in your eviction case. We will only use your data to create the documents to file in order to contest your eviction, to file those documents with the court, and to follow up if those documents get rejected by the court.

    By using this tool, you will grant the Tenant Power Toolkit team access to your information in order to file your legal paperwork, and support you through the process. If the court rejects your legal paperwork, we will also share your file with volunteers who have agreed to help tenants with rejected cases. We will keep a copy of your data to fight your eviction for the duration of time required to conclude the case.

    Beyond your individual legal case, we would also like to use your information to connect you with social justice groups like the LA Tenants Union or free legal service organizations that may be able to help you with your situation. This will provide you with additional resources to fight your eviction and inform housing justice work to fight all evictions, cancel rent, lower rents going forward, and improve our living conditions. We ask for your consent to do this.

    At any time, you may request that we delete your file and data by emailing tenantpower@debtcollective.org. Your data will be stored in a secure and encrypted database. We will not share your data without your consent.

  • 15. How can I help this effort?

    If you’re happy with what we’ve built here, and want to support our efforts, please reach out! You can submit feedback on either of the tools here.

    We’d also appreciate any donation that will let us help more tenants in more cities and towns across the country. Donate here! Or better yet, become a dues paying member of the Debt Collective, our nation’s first debtors union!