We often get the question concerning what happens to an unlawful detainer case if the tenant gives up possession of the premises. The quick answer is that the case gets converted to the ordinary civil calendar. Depending on what type of case you have – limited or unlimited- it will go to the on the appropriate calendar. The reason the case gets converted to the ordinary civil calendar and taken off the expedited unlawful detainer calendar is because unlawful detainer proceedings are designed to provide a summary or expedited procedure for resolving disputes over right to possession of real property and issues incidental to possession. Therefore, as soon as possession is no longer at issue there is no reason for the case to proceed in an expedited way.
Keep in mind, however, that the court will not know that possession is no longer at issue unless either the landlord or the tenant informs the court. Accordingly, regardless of whether you are the tenant or the landlord you should not rely on the other party taking the initiative to inform the court. Once the case is converted to the ordinary civil calendar the court is no longer limited to resolving possession and issues incidental to possession. Instead, the court can now resolve all issues. As a tenant, sometimes it makes sense to deliver possession of the property back to the landlord so that the tenant can deal with all disputes in a regular civil action, including by way of a cross-complaint. In general, delivering possession does not waive the tenant’s claims it just adjusts the court where those claims will be heard and removes the court’s limitations.
For more information on defending an unlawful detainer action, we recommend purchasing our immediately available eBook on this website. We also represent clients in unlawful detainer actions, contact us to inquire about representation options.