What to expect at an eviction trial

At your trial, the judge will hear from both sides and decide if you have to move out and if you owe your landlord money. 

Get your trial date

After you file your Answer form, your landlord (or you) can file a Request to Set Case for Trial - Unlawful Detainer (form UD-150). The Request form tells the judge if the person filing the Request wants a judge or jury trial, how long they think the trial will last, and what issues they want the judge to decide. They must mail you a copy of the Request.

Then, the court will mail you a letter with your court date. It will be about 20 days after your landlord files the Request.

If you disagree with what the landlord wrote in their Request, you can file a Counter-Request.

  • Fill out Request to Set Case for Trial - Unlawful Detainer (form UD-150). Check the box for “COUNTER-REQUEST” on the form.
  • Have someone 18 or older mail a copy to the landlord (or their attorney) and fill out the back of the original Request.
  • File the original and another copy with the court. Keep the copy for your records.

 

You and your landlord have a right to a jury trial. It costs $150, plus you will need to pay a daily fee for the jurors during the trial. If you ask for a fee waiver, the court may waive the jury fees. 
You can ask for a jury trial by filing a Request (form UD-150) and checking the box for jury trial.

Get legal help if you want a jury trial.

Get ready for your trial

When you get a notice from the court that you have an eviction trial coming up it’s important to get ready. When you’re in the courtroom things will happen quickly. You need to be organized so you can answer the judge’s or other side’s questions as quickly as possible.

Get familiar with courtroom basics

If this is the first time you've been part of a trial or hearing, read this information for how to prepare for a day in court.

On the trial day, make sure you take enough time off from work and have childcare if needed. Judges hear more than one case in each time slot. So, you'll need to be available for about 4 hours starting when your case is scheduled.

If possible, watch an eviction trial. These are open to the public. Watching one will give you a better idea of what to expect. You can call your county courthouse to find out when eviction trials are scheduled. 

How to ask for an interpreter

If you don't speak or understand English very well, you can ask for a court interpreter for your court date. Ask as soon as you find out your court date. The court will provide an interpreter free of charge.

How to ask for an accommodation for a disability

Each court has an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator to help persons with disabilities. To ask for an accommodation, fill out a Request for Accommodations by Persons With Disabilities and Response (form MC-410). Turn the form in to your court's ADA coordinator at least 5 days before your court date. 

Get your testimony and evidence ready

When your case is called, the landlord will probably get to talk first and tell the judge why you should be evicted. They’ll present their facts, evidence, and the law that they think supports them.

Next, you'll have the opportunity to present your case, or testify (give testimony), to the judge. This can be easier if you write up a list of your testimony in advance with all of the important facts and details you need the judge to hear in a way that's easy for you to look at while you're talking to the judge. 

If you have evidence - things like photos, emails, or papers that will help you prove your defense and make your case - bring those with you. Make copies so you can give one copy to the judge and one copy to the other side (your landlord or your landlord's attorney).

How to testify in court

  • When you start the clerk may ask you to spell your name.
  • Ask the judge, "Your Honor, may I begin?"
  • Start by saying something like, "Your Honor, I believe I have a defense (or more than one defense) to being evicted. My defense is/defenses are..." Then describe your defense or defenses to the judge.
  • For each defense present your items of evidence. Give one copy to the judge and one to the other side. 

Examples of testimony and evidence in an eviction case

  • Use photos as evidence

    "Your Honor, I have photos to show the bad conditions of my apartment." 
     

    Show the photos one by one, describing what's in each photo.

  • Use receipts as evidence

    "Your Honor, I have rent receipts or money order stubs or checks to show that I don't owe as much as the landlord says I owe."

    Show the receipts one by one, stating the dates and amounts on each and what each receipt is for.

  • Use the notice as evidence

    "Your Honor, the 3-day Notice doesn't say the name, address, telephone number and hours to pay the rent as required by law."

    Show the Notice.

  • give your testimony

    "Your Honor, I tried to pay the rent within the 3 days.  This is what happened...."

    Give detailed information with facts: The date and time you tried to pay the rent and as many other details as you can remember.

If you have witnesses

A witness is someone who can help back up your story because they actually saw or heard something that's important to your case.

You may have a witness whose testimony can help prove your defense, but the only way you can get the story out is by asking the witness questions. It is helpful write up the questions before you go to court.

Witnesses will usually wait outside the courtroom until it's their turn to testify so they can't hear what other people may have already said. Say to the judge, “I would like to call [full name of witness], as a witness, your Honor.”  Court staff will then get the person and direct them to the witness stand. 

  • Begin by asking introductory questions

    Usually you'll start by asking the witness their name, address, job, how they know you, etc. 

  • Show first-hand knowledge

    Ask questions that show the witness actually saw or heard something themselves they'll be testifying about. People who only heard a story from someone else about your situation aren't helpful witnesses.

  • Ask questions that will help your case

    After you've introduced the witness and established they have personal knowledge of the facts they are testifying about, move on to ask about what they know that proves your defense. Once you've asked all of your questions, finish by saying, “I have no further questions for this witness."

If the judge asks you to try to agree

The day of your trial, the judge may ask you and the other side to step outside the courtroom to discuss your case to see if you can agree without a trial. The court may even have mediators to help you agree. 

  • If you and the other side agree
    Go back to the courtroom and wait for your name to be called. Do not leave the court without talking to the judge about what you both agreed to.

    Even if you settle your case and you and the other side, or their attorney, make an agreement, do not leave the court without a copy of the agreement. Don’t wait to get a copy of the agreement in the mail. Tell the other side that you'll wait in the courtroom for a copy.  Having a copy helps to prevent misunderstandings during a stressful time.
  • If you and other side can't agree
    If you don’t agree, go back into the courtroom, let the deputy know that you’ve returned to the courtroom, then wait for your name to be called by the clerk or judge for your trial.  
Even if you speak to the other side, or their attorney, and they tell you that you don’t need to talk to the judge, do not leave the court without talking to the judge. You have the right to talk to a judge when your case goes to court and hear exactly what your judgment is going to say you have to do.
 

The judge's decision

Once you and your landlord have had a chance to present your case the judge will make a decision. Listen carefully so you know what to do next.

The court clerk will give or mail you a copy of the judgment that says what the judge decided.

Eviction

What's next?

After hearing both sides, the judge will make a decision. If you win at trial, you don’t have to move out or pay your landlord money. You still have to follow what your lease or rental agreement says and pay rent. 

 

If you lose, you can be forced to move out, but you may have some options depending on the situation.