By Jonathan J. Coleman, Esq.

Unlawful Detainer actions do not dominate my practice, but they cross my desk often enough due to the amount of Probate Litigation we handle here at TLD Law. It is a very frequent situation amongst families that a person lives with a family member rent free, when they are not an owner. Subsequently when that family member passes away, the person assumes their living situation will stay the same. It is just as often that over time that person starts causing trouble for the new title holders. More than a few Estate and Trust administrations were put on hold during peak COVID-19 when the absolute moratoriums on evictions were in effect. As a result, these holdover family members could not be removed by any means.

The term for when you have that family member who is living somewhere rent-free when they have no ownership interest is “tenant at will.†Part of being a tenant at will means you do not pay any rent, so you do not “hire†the real property.

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Jonathan J. Coleman

I recently finished my first post-COVID-19 Unlawful Detainer trial at Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles, where a tenant at will needed to be evicted for damaging a property and failing to uphold the verbal terms of his lease Agreement. He was evicted under a 3-day notice to quit for nuisance ad illegal activity, as opposed to the normal 30-day notice that can be used to terminate any tenancy at will, because time was of the essence and damage was ongoing to the home.

In this case, the defense counsel put on a strong legal defense regarding the COVID-19 Protections, and the procedural defenses they offer if not strictly complied with. I argued that a tenancy at will was not subject to those provisions, as it was not a hiring of real property. Now, this can change with new legislation, or it could be overturned at some point, but the law of the land at Stanley Mosk Courthouse right now is the following:

The Covid Protections offered under The Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (Civil Code Section 1946.2) and Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 49.99.2(E) DO NOT apply to a tenant at will.

Following the legal definition, if you have a tenant who is not paying rent, and the tenancy has no stated end date, they are a tenant at will. They do not “hire†real property as contemplated under the current statutes, and the notice requirements are lighter.

That said, you should not undertake giving notice of an eviction without consulting with an attorney. If you have other questions regarding evictions, probate or not, feel free to contact us here at TLD law, or email me directly at

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