SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday outlined what law enforcement can and can’t do when responding to evictions. 

The legal guidance is aimed at evictions where landlords try and take matters into their own hands, such as unlawful lockouts and self-help evictions. Self-help evictions were described as landlords shutting off water or power, removing tenants’ belongings or changing the locks. 

Bonta’s guidance comes as the California Department of Justice’s Housing Strike Force got reports of such incidences. 

According to AG Bonta, the only legal way to evict a tenant is through the courts, and if successful, a sheriff or marshal will handle the eviction. 

So, he said law enforcement has a legal duty to intervene and prevent illegal evictions when responding to calls regarding landlords and tenants:

  • They should never help evict a tenant by force or threats.
  • Only the Sheriff or Marshal, or their deputies, may evict a tenant, and only with a court order.
  • Other officers should not ask the tenant to leave their homes.
  • Law enforcement should advise the landlord or those involved that it is a misdemeanor to force tenants out of a rental property and should instruct them to allow the tenant back into the home.
  • Law enforcement should advise the landlord to seek legal advice if they have an issue with the tenant or to lawfully evict the tenant.
  • Law enforcement should write a report about the incident even if no arrest is made.

Tenants who are unlawfully evicted or the target of such attempts could take it to court. Landlords who attempt such actions can face legal consequences, including from law enforcement. 

The AG advises tenants who know they will not be able to pay rent or are being threatened with eviction to seek legal help immediately. To find a legal aid office, visit lawhelpca.org.

For more information about what reasons are permitted for evictions, click or tap here