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Defenses to unlawful detainer eviction


Carefully review the complaint or petition and prepare your defenses. Defenses can include improper lease termination, no violation of the lease, or the lawsuit filed too early.


Last updated 06/23/2023

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Complaint or Petition

In the complaint or petition, the landlord should state the following information: 

  • The complaint or petition is for unlawful detainer,
  • The address of the property,
  • How much rent is to be paid per month,
  • The date the landlord claims your lease ended or was terminated, and
  • The date the landlord claims you should have moved out.


After reviewing the complaint or petition, you should know what your landlord is claiming. Now you must think about possible defenses to the lawsuit. Your defense responds to the landlord’s accusations and explains why you feel your landlord should not evict you. You must prove that these reasons are good and that they exist. Just because you believe you have a good defense does not mean the judge will agree with you. You should use all the defenses that apply to your situation. You are not limited to only one defense. 

When you defend yourself in an unlawful detainer lawsuit, you must prove to the judge you have the right to stay on the premises. You may wish to file your defenses with the court in writing. Some defenses must be presented to the court in writing. 

Improper written lease termination: If you have a written lease, you should read your lease. You are looking for a “termination clause.” The lease should state if you can be evicted during the term of the lease, what reasons your landlord must have to terminate your lease, and what amount of notice your landlord must give you. 

Improper month-to-month lease termination: If you have a month-to-month lease, the landlord must give you at least one full month’s notice starting from the next date the rent is due. To prove your landlord did not end your lease properly, you will need a dated photocopy of the landlord’s notice and past receipts showing you paid the rent on the date on which your rent was due.

You did not violate your lease: If you did not do what your landlord claims, then you did not violate your lease.

Not a material breach of lease: If your landlord terminates your lease because of an alleged breach, you could argue it was not a serious breach of the lease. Ask other tenants who have done the same thing to testify or write a letter for you stating the landlord did not ask them to leave when they did the same thing.

Your landlord filed the lawsuit before the lease termination date: Your landlord cannot file a lawsuit against you before the date it has demanded you vacate or the date it claims your lease ends. You should ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit if your landlord has filed a lawsuit before the date it demanded you vacate your home or the date it claimed your lease ended.