Before you start
Figure out the deadline to file your Answer or other response
You have 5 days to file an Answer form or other response after you’re handed (served) the Summons and Complaint forms. Don't count Saturdays, Sundays, or court holidays. Day 1 is the day after the Summons and Complaint were handed to you.
If someone handed the forms to you (even if you didn't take them and they were just left on the ground near you), you have 5 days to file an Answer.
You have more time to file an Answer if:
- The forms were given to someone at your home or work instead of you and then a copy was mailed to you (this is called substituted service)
- A copy was posted at your home and a copy was mailed to you (this is called service by posting)
If you were served by substituted service or service by posting:
You have 15 days after the server mailed the Summons and Complaint to you to file an Answer.
- The mailing date is the postmark date.
- Day 1 is the day after the server mailed the Summons and Complaint to you.
- For the first 10 of the 15 days, count regular calendar days (every day, including weekends and holidays). The 10th day is the day you're considered served.
- Then you count 5 court days. For these 5 court days, do not count Saturdays, Sundays, or court holidays. The 5th day is the deadline to respond to the Complaint.
Talk to a Self-Help Center or lawyer if you have questions about the deadlines or how you were served.
If you miss the deadline to file an Answer, you may still have time
If your landlord hasn't filed the Request to Enter Default form asking the court to move the case forward without you, you can still file an Answer. But do it right away because your landlord can ask for the default any time after your deadline to file.
If you need legal help but don't have time to get it before the deadline to file your Answer, fill out the Answer form as best you can anyway. Explain in detail the reasons you think the law protects you from being evicted and file the Answer with the court. Get legal help before your trial even if you filed an Answer without any.
If you don't file an Answer
- Your landlord can ask the judge to decide the eviction case without hearing your side
- There won't be a trial date where you can talk to the judge
If you lose the case, your landlord can ask the sheriff to post a Notice that they will lock you out if you do not move out. It will hurt your ability to rent again by showing up on your damaged credit record.
In some cases, you might want to file a motion
If you think the landlord's Complaint was filled out wrong or was served wrong, you might file a motion to ask the court to do something about it instead of filing an Answer. These motions are called a Motion to Quash Service or a Demurrer. These aren't pre-made court forms. They're filled out on pleading paper.
Get legal help if you want to file a Motion to Quash or a Demurrer
A Demurrer is filed to say the Complaint doesn’t include all the facts or legal requirements to prove you should be evicted. A Demurrer can delay the case by a few weeks, and if you win, your landlord might have to start the court case all over or even give you a new Notice.
Motion to Quash Service
A Motion to Quash Service is filed when you say the landlord didn’t serve the Summons and Complaint properly. If you win, the landlord has to re-serve the Summons and Complaint. If the landlord wins, you'll have to file an Answer to the Complaint right away.
Read the Complaint
Make sure you understand what your landlord is saying in the Complaint and what they're asking the judge to do. If you need help, learn about places where you may be able to get help.
Determine if you have denials or defenses
When you read the Complaint, you will see a list of numbered statements. If you think one of these statements is not true or you're not sure if it is true, you can deny it. If you don't deny it, the judge will think you agree.
You deny something by listing the statement number in item 2 of your Answer. If you don't list a statement in item 2, the judge thinks you agree with it.If your landlord is suing you for $1,000 or less you can check box 2a. That's a general denial.
If your landlord is suing you for more than $1,000 and you want to tell the judge something the landlord said isn't true or you don't know if it's true (so you are going to deny it) you can't do a general denial. You have to list the items individually you want to deny.
For example, your landlord may have checked box 6d on the Complaint that says your lease was changed to increase your rent but that never happened. Or your landlord says in item 6e that they've attached a copy of your lease, but they didn't.
- Put this information in item 2b(1). You can also deny information your landlord put on the Mandatory Cover Sheet and Supplemental Allegations - Unlawful Detainer form
- I didn't get a Mandatory Cover Sheet and Supplemental Allegations (form UD-101) from my landlord
- My landlord said things in the Mandatory Cover Sheet and Supplemental Allegations (form UD-101) that are not true (false) or I don't know if they're true
For each of the items your landlord said that are not true, write the item number or describe them on the Answer - Unlawful Detainer-Eviction (form UD-105), item 2b(2)(b).
If you don’t know if some of the things the landlord said on the Mandatory Cover Sheet and Supplemental Allegations are true or not, say they’re not true. If you don’t say they're not true, the judge will think you think they are true. For each of the items your landlord said that you're not sure are true, write the item number or describe them on the Answer - Unlawful Detainer-Eviction (form UD-105), item 2b(2)(c).
- If you can't fit what you want to say in item 2b(2)(b) or 2b(2)(c), instead check the box under them that says "Explanation is on MC-025, titled as Attachment 2b(2)(b) [or 2b(2)(c)]" and on Attachment (form MC-025), write UD-105, Attachment 2. Explain there what the landlord said on the Mandatory Cover Sheet you think is not true, or you're not sure is true.
You may have good reasons you think you shouldn’t be evicted but you need to learn if there are any laws that protect you. These laws are called defenses.
Here are a few examples of defenses:
Your landlord did not give you a Declaration of COVID-19-Related Financial Distress
You didn’t pay all your rent because there was a problem with your home (for example your roof was leaking, there were rats, peeling lead paint, etc.) and your landlord wouldn’t fix it
The city or county where you live has rent or eviction control laws your landlord didn’t follow
You reported your landlord for code violations and they’re evicting you to get back at you
Your landlord is discriminating against you (due to your religion, race, or other protected status)
Here are a few examples of reasons you may not be protected or have a legal defense:
Your sister lives with you and is dealing drugs in your apartment complex
Your lease says you can't have a dog but you found one and moved it in anyway
Fill out the Answer form
Use the form Attachment (form MC-025) if your explanation doesn't fit in item 3v
This form gives you extra space to explain your defenses. On this Attachment form, write "Attachment 3v" near the top where it says "ATTACHMENT (Number): ___________." Be as detailed as possible in your explanation. Include dates, times, and as many facts as possible.
Your landlord is the plaintiff and you are the defendant.
If there’s more than one defendant listed on the forms, you can all file an Answer together if your defenses are the same. If your defenses aren’t the same you should fill out your own Answer forms.You think you are being evicted for different reasons. For example, you think your landlord is evicting you only because of unpaid rent. Your roommate thinks they're being evicted because of unpaid rent and because they called Code Enforcement on the landlord. If this is the case, you can file separate Answer forms.
Each person listed on the Answer needs to pay a fee when they file the form ($240-$450). If anyone can't afford the fee, fill out a form to ask for a fee waiver.
Find out if you have any local forms to fill out
Some courts also have local forms you have to use.
Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to your Self-Help Center to ask if they have any local forms you need to use. Your Self-Help Center may also be able to review your forms before you file them.
Make at least 2 copies of all of your forms. When you file them, the court will keep the original and return the copies to you, stamped.
Keep one of the copies for yourself. You'll give the other copy to your landlord in the next step.
Once you’ve filled out the Answer form, the next step is to share it with your landlord. You need to follow a specific process to do this called serving papers.